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DTA Waivers

Although digital terminal adapters (DTAs) have been out and about for more than a year, several manufacturers, including Motorola, have been lobbying to get new product versions approved for use by the FCC. The purpose of a DTA is to make it easier for operators to make the transition to all-digital broadcasting. For consumer holdouts, the DTA converts digital signals back to analog, allowing them to maintain older TVs and legacy analog service packages. However, the kicker with first-gen DTAs is that they had to avoid any use of conditional access technology, per the separable security mandate. That meant operators had to broadcast basic QAM channels in the clear – no encryption.

So what’s changed? As of yesterday, the FCC is now allowing some specific low-cost DTAs to include very basic conditional access technology. Among other companies, Motorola received a waiver to sell a DTA embedded with light security features. No doubt there are content providers who are pleased with this, given that encryption protects their content. Operators should also be pleased as the move helps them speed up their digital transition, which in turn helps them reclaim capacity from bandwidth-hungry analog channels.