CI+ receives support from CA market leader

Global conditional access market leader N*D*/S* is to support the Common Interface Plus (CI+) separable conditional access (CA) standard with its German MSO customer Kabel Deutschland. CI+ specifications define the process whereby a separable conditional access module (CAM) will decrypt content and transmit it back to a host - an integrated digital TV set (iDTV) or set-top box (STB) - across a PCMCIA interface.

The security of the original CI standard was compromised due to its permitting the unencrypted flow of content between the CAM and the slot once the CAM had unscrambled the content. The CI+ standard rectifies this, and allows applications for MHEG-5 middleware to be embedded directly on the CAM. Kabel Deutschland's deployment of CI+ will allow subscribers to access the MSO's bouquet through CI+ compatible iDTVs and STBs.

Our take...

Kabel Deutschland will not be the first operator to support CI+ but joins a growing group which includes Canal Plus and Ziggo. Most significantly, Kabel Deutschland's adoption of CI+ will engender the first CI+ implementation of *N*D/S* Videoguard CA system. *N*D*/S* had previously announced that, as with the original CI standard, it would not support CI+. *N*D/S* unwillingness to support the original CI standard constituted an important barrier to its adoption. Given that its CA secured 27.5 per cent of the global STB installed base at the end of 2008, *N*D*/S* backing of CI+ should increase the standard's viability.

With all the major CA vendors supporting CI+, and growing operator support due to potential customer acquisition CAPEX reductions and branding consistency allowed by the loading of applications on CI+ CAMs, the effect on STB manufacturers is less clear.

CI+ encourages, on the one hand, use of subscriber-owned iDTVs over operator-owned STBs. However, operators wishing to differentiate their services by deploying the newest technologies (DVB-S2, DVB-T2, DVB-C2 to increase channel counts for example) will have to rely on STBs: operators have no control over when subscribers will upgrade to TV sets which support these technologies.