Evolution Broadband expects to file a waiver request today with the Federal Communications Commission in regard to receiving a three-year waiver on its low-cost, HD-capable set-top box.

Evolution was successful in gaining a waiver from the FCC last month for its standard-definition set-top box with a digital terminal adapter (DTA), which meant it could offer its DMS-1002 and DMS-1002 CA boxes in a price range of $44-$50 per box to cable operators, as opposed to the more advanced set-top boxes with separable security that cost hundreds of dollars more. With the DTAs, cable operators are able to reclaim analog bandwidth to offer additional HD or VOD choices, or more services.

The FCC found that Evolution’s first waiver request met the criteria for the limited-capacity standard that was in its 2005 Deferral Order. The FCC’s integration ban went into effect in July 2007 and required that cable operators deploy set-top boxes with removable CableCards, which drove up the prices of those boxes.

This time around, Evolution is trying to get a waiver on its DMS-1004HD-CA set-top box, which is a one-way device that doesn’t have digital video recording capabilities, broadband Internet access or multiple tuners. The box comes with conditional access from Conax through a removable SIM card. The DMS-1004HD would sell for under $100 in “reasonable volumes,” according to Evolution President Brent Smith.

“The DMS-1004HD-CA set-top box is identical to the low-cost, limited-capability set-top boxes for which the Commission granted Evolution a three-year general waiver of the integration ban,” Evolution wrote in its filing. “The only difference is that the DMS-1004HD-CA set-top box provides HD functionality. As the Commission has recently concluded, it is now appropriate to add HD functionality to the list of one-way capabilities that can qualify for a waiver of the integration ban.”

Evolution contends that HD functionality was added to the FCC’s list of one-way capabilities after the FCC ruled in favor of granting a waiver to CableOne earlier this year. CableOne’s waiver lets it deploy a lower-cost set-top box for HD services without the more costly CableCards in them. In short, HD is now “commonplace” and should be added to the list of one-way capabilities that qualify for waivers, Evolution said in its filing.

Evolution also advocated the use of DVB SimulCrypt in its filing, which means that its Conax conditional access technology could run on the same systems as CA offerings from Cisco and Motorola.

“We are heavily pushing for Motorola and Cisco to support DVB SimulCrypt in the U.S.,” Evolution’s Smith said via email to CED. “SimulCrypt would allow for multiple security systems to coexist on the same network. For example, Conax and Moto or Cisco CA systems would deliver their encryption keys on the same QAMs with no duplication required. Essentially this means that all legacy boxes would continue to work, but it would allow the operator to deploy different boxes with any DVB CA-based security system. Think of it as Harmony or Passage on steroids.

“It is extremely important that the U.S. operators know that both Motorola and Cisco are actively promoting their products as compatible to DVB SimulCrypt in every market outside of North America. They have the technical capability of offering SimulCrypt, but are not doing so in the U.S. because of their stranglehold on the market.”

Smith said that SimulCrypt has the potential to lower set-top box prices on the same scale that DOCSIS lowered cable modem prices when it was implemented.

More Broadband Direct 07/31/09:
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•  Comcast rings up caller ID in Colorado
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