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MSOs invite duopoly to finish Polycipher DCAS

Fri, 06/06/2008 - 8:35am
Brian Santo

Comcast, Cox and Time Warner Cable (TWC) have invited Cisco, Motorola and NDS to help complete the downloadable conditional access system (DCAS) development work begun by Polycipher. The three MSOs fund Polycipher.

CED originally reported the story in our June issue (story here).

A subsidiary goal of the Polycipher project was to break the hold Cisco (which owns the former Scientific Atlanta) and Motorola have on the conditional access and set-top markets. Their invitation to provide technology to the Polycipher DCAS means the MSOs have thrown in the towel on using DCAS as a vehicle for beginning to break the SA-Moto duopoly.

“SA, Moto, and NDS are the experts here, and we need their expertise,” Kevin Leddy, TWC’s EVP of technology policy and product management, told CED.

The three vendors’ greater involvement in Polycipher centers on a technological issue with business ramifications.

Cisco’s technical director of subscriber networks, Bill Wall, told CED: “Indemnification of the system is a concern. Traditionally the MSOs hold us and Motorola responsible if there’s a breach in the system. With Polycipher involved, it’s important for us to be involved in that development.”

From a technological standpoint, the argument plays out in how the two chips that will make up the Polycipher DCAS system are architected.

The industry had hoped to have the Polycipher DCAS available right about now, so that it could be used instead of CableCards, but the FCC mandate, effective July 2007, to begin shipping all new set-tops with a CableCard necessarily pushed DCAS development to a back burner.

Now the Polycipher DCAS is unlikely to see commercial daylight until sometime in 2009, at the earliest.

At least two other DCAS technologies are now commercially available, one from Beyond Broadband Technology (BBT), and the other from Widevine. BBT told CED that it expects to have its system in field trials in the coming weeks, and Widevine’s is deployed in systems internationally.

But given the major North American MSOs’ historic reliance on Cisco and Motorola, it is unclear what their prospects are in the local market.

More Broadband Direct:

• MSOs invite duopoly to finish Polycipher DCAS

• Cablevision comes to terms on options-backdating lawsuit

• L.A. sues TWC over 2007 service problems

• Martin's free, wireless high-speed Internet service delayed

• Arris garners PacketCable compliance from CableLabs for E-MTA

• Sony bringing YouTube videos to some LCD flat-panel TVs

• Broadcom co-founder faces drug, conspiracy, securities fraud charges

• Broadband Briefs for 6/06/08

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