Nagra Locks Up Content Security Deal With Altice USA

Nagra said it has inked a deal to provide content protection technologies and services for Altice USA, the unit of Altice that recently acquired Cablevision Systems and Suddenlink Communications.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Altice USA will tap the Nagra Connect “converged” conditional access/digital rights management platform for broadcast, IPTV, OTT and connected home services, along with the vendor’s MediaLive platform (for IP- and QAM-based multiscreen content) to enable content security for the MSO’s standard-definition, high-definition and 4K/Ultra HD services.

Altice USA has not fully detailed what future product will employ Nagra’s content security platform. However, Dexter Goei, Altice USA’s chairman and CEO, noted in the Altice Q3 earnings call last November that the company was pushing toward a new Home Hub Center that will also utilize a new user interface. Following the closure of its Cablevision acquisition last year, Altice USA also announced that it would eventually introduce an “all-in-on home center” that integrates the capabilities of the set-top box, router and WiFi modems in one device that runs on a unified interface. In 2015, Altice’s unit in France introduced a next-gen gateway, initially for FTTP networks, that could factor into Altice USA’s ambitious plan to upgrade to an all-fiber access network.

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Altice USA’s selection of Nagra’s content protection platforms marks a major shift in the MSO’s legacy security platforms, and should help to unify the operator’s technology approach, as Altice and Nagra already work together in other parts of the globe.

Suddenlink has been using Arris/Motorola CableCARD security for its current TiVo-powered platform, and Cablevision has been using a downloadable security system that leans heavily on technology from Cisco Systems/NDS and boxes from Samsung.

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To support the legacy security systems and the new one, Altice will rely on Simulcrypt, a technique with linkages to Digital Video Broadcasting (DVB), a standard that’s popular in Europe, that allows more than one conditional access system to operate on the same video program stream. There’s a relatively small bandwidth hit with Simulcrypt, but the approach does not require the operator to duplicate or simulcast the primary video streams.

Altice is expected to employ a “cap and grow” strategy to support the initial rollout and eventual migration to the new platform, Christopher Schouten, senior director of product marketing at Nagra, said, adding that the new content security systems will support Altice’s transition to a full-IP network.

Schouten said the approach is primarily DVB-based, but that Nagra’s implementation also factors in some of the specific needs of U.S. cable networks that vary from those in Europe.

He said Nagra, which also counts CableOne among its U.S. cable operator partners, is hopeful that its approach and use of Simulcrypt could help other operators break out of the existing video security duopoly of Arris/Motorola and Cisco and allow them to expand their ability to pick set-top box vendors.

“We are in a unique position to bring innovative products and services to Altice USA’s Optimum and Suddenlink customers by leveraging our global operational expertise, scale, resources, and key strategic partners like NAGRA,” Hakim Boubazine, co-president and COO of Altice USA, said in a statement. “We have been impressed by the flexibility NAGRA has shown in adapting to U.S.-specific requirements in a short amount of time, and this partnership will enable us to design integrated services to meet our customers’ expectations.”