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FEATURE: Securing Your Hybrid Network
What Every Satellite Operator Should Know

by Steve Christian, Verimatrix

Satellite systems provide an excellent way to broadcast large amounts of content to wide geographic areas. But satellite pay-TV operators are struggling to offer interactive and on-demand services as they experience more competitive pressure. In general, satellite operators are enhancing their lineup with HD via the existing Digital Video Broadcast (DVB) infrastructure. Yet in order to compete effectively with cable and Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) services, they need two-way communications capability in order to offer enhanced on-demand services.

Satellite operators have now started to embrace IP-based technologies to implement interactive services. The combination of DVB and IPTV delivery technologies within a hybrid network takes advantage of the strengths of each: an RF-based broadcast network for one-to-many simultaneous content delivery, combined with a scalable IP network for the interactive one-to-one services.

Existing tiered content packages will continue to be delivered using the available DVB infrastructure, while video-on-demand (VOD) and interactive services are added over a localized IP broadband network.

The most recent data from IMS Research forecasts satellite hybrid set-top boxes (STBs) will account for three quarters of all hybrid set-tops shipped worldwide in 2012, based on leading satellite TV operators’ strategies to strongly position themselves against land-based competitors.

Additionally, the analyst firm MRG is researching new information covering the growth of hybrid STBs that reveals excellent potential in some markets where broadband is already available, and where multi-channel digital video broadcast is already in place. MRG’s new Global Hybrid Set-top Box Report for IPTV reveals a (conservatively estimated) installed base of well over 13 million hybrid STB units in 2009, with at least 15 percent Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) through 2013. (This report will be available from MRG in April of this year.)

Enhanced Business Model Opportunities
One of the big opportunities of delivering video over an IP infrastructure is the ability to completely incorporate a home network and STB within the service. Through a home gateway, operators can provide a command center for flexible home entertainment options and retain some control over the network behind it.

Real-time interactivity and personalization are also attractive services, such as VOD, catch up TV, and DVR. Providing interactivity within program streams can
increase stickiness and subscriber loyalty such as voting in competitions or interactive advertising that enables the purchase of products directly through the TV.

Additionally, offering Internet-based video content can place operators on the leading edge of menu options. Over-the-top and long tail content can be served within a walled garden environment, insulated from threats such as viruses that permeate the web.

A common thread that helps satellite operators meet all of these objectives, and arguably the very foundation of digital convergence, is IP-based technologies. Throughout the broadcast head-end and inside the multimedia savvy home, IP has emerged as the common building block. There are numerous scenarios available for satellite operators to enhance their competitiveness, which are all made possible by a bidirectional channel enabled by IP.

Yet, in order to deliver material ranging widely in value from blockbusters to niche content, hybrid network architectures raise unique issues regarding content security and digital rights’ enforcement. These challenges are typically met by a variety of incompatible conditional access (CA) and digital rights management (DRM) solutions.

Dealing with more than one security platform creates management challenges for pay-TV operators and content owners alike. Newer generations of content security architectures can help resolve these challenges through a multi-layered approach that supports all content types, delivery networks and display devices — typically from a single head-end.

Flexible, Layered Security Approach
A multi-layered security approach allows operators to optimize content security for different platforms, consumer devices and customers, within a single platform. Operators are able to deploy just enough security to meet their varying business objectives. Too onerous security incurs unnecessary costs and can deter customers, while too little of course can encourage piracy and unauthorized access to services.

Most consumers are simply looking for clear and transparently-enforced rules relating to the material they purchase. In fact without these rules in place, the variety of different purchase and rental options available today could not exist. A unified content security approach eliminates any negative perceptions of DRM policies and allows consumers to simply enjoy the content they purchased.

Advantages of Software-Based Security
The advent of IP-based infrastructures for play-out and transmission has one main implication for content security. Renewability of security subsystems is a distinct advantage in a landscape of fast changing threats and business opportunities, making software-based security an attractive option. Content security is an arms race against pirates and fraudsters, so the content security must be renewable. Software-based security offers flexible renewability options allowing operators to stay a step ahead.

Migration Considerations
Operators need to consider their content security transition plan for the hybrid migration. For example, one-way satellite broadcasters have historically favored hardware-based security systems. As they add IP-channels they would need to upgrade to a hybrid STB. They are then faced with a choice: either manage two separate security systems, which is costly and cumbersome, or select a unified security approach that protects both broadcast and IP-delivered programming by establishing a single content authority.

The DVB Simulcrypt standard, which allows two CA systems to work side-by-side, facilitates the upgrade from legacy boxes to hybrid by using software-based content security in the hybrid receivers. Thanks to the two-way communications capability, there is no need for hardware-based security in hybrid devices. This allows for a transparent transition that will not be at risk of disrupting business operations. Operators can phase in new STBs to quickly take advantage of higher value subscribers and lower content security costs for improved profitability.

Satellite operators need a unified content security system that not only brings significant cost and operational savings from managing just one platform, but also enables the deployment of a transparent security regime across all the network and device permutations that subscribers are demanding. A unified content security system has a vital role in the transition towards hybrid networks. Most importantly, it supports multi-layered protection, allows new business models to emerge and flourish.