Charter Pushes Ahead With Downloadable Security

Preparing To Run Set-Top Tests On ‘Live Production System’
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Charter Communications is making progress with a new downloadable security system for set-top boxes, telling the FCC that the MSO will soon conduct tests of those new devices on a “live production system in the next few weeks.”

Charter offered this semi-annual update in this January 30 filing to the FCC per a condition for a waiver the MSO obtained in 2013 that paved the way for Charter to use dual-mode boxes that use integrated security and the operator’s new downloadable platform.

Charter noted that two manufacturers have successfully built prototypes of  downloadable security boxes, and one has moved ahead with “final production models.”

Cisco Systems showed off one of those “Worldbox” devices last month at the International CES in Las Vegas. Charter recently confirmed that it is also sourcing Worldboxes from Humax. Charter will start off with two Worldbox models – an HD-DVR and an HD client box without a local DVR (an image of a Cisco-made client Worldbox device is pictured above). Both models are QAM/IP hybrids.

Charter noted that it has demonstrated in the lab that its Worldboxes are interoperable with plant operating “two existing industry-standard conditional access systems” – in the U.S. that typically means systems from the old set-top security duopoly of Arris/Motorola and Cisco/Scientific-Atlanta.

Charter has also activated a field site with “simulcrypt” in support of downloadable security. Simulcrypt, a technique that has ties to the Digital Video Broadcasting (DVB) standard that’s popular in Europe, allows more than one conditional access system to operate on the same video program stream.

As an additional condition of the waiver, Charter is to negotiate in good faith with a CE manufacturer that intends to develop a box for retail that uses Charter’s downloadable security. Charter reiterated that those talks took place last year, but has not identified who it’s talking to with respect to retail.

“As Charter approaches finalization of the downloadable security ecosystem and its specifications, we expect to be able to resume those discussions,” the MSO said.

Regarding other updates, Charter said it has deployed 2.39 million set-tops with integrated security under the waiver as of Dec. 31, 2014.  The MSO has also deployed 5.5 million CableCARD-enabled set-tops, and 54,224 CableCARD modules for use in retail devices.

Charter and Cablevision Systems use the same “open” architecture for their respective downloadable security systems. Execs from those MSOs have been selected to serve on the FCC’s Downloadable Security Technology Advisory Committee (DSTAC), which is tasked with helping the Commission pursue a successor to the CableCARD regime.

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