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Sun DRM finds a home in Korean IPTV pilot

DReaM debut

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Sun Microsystems may have already found its first customer, in a Korean IPTV system, for its DReaM (DRM Everywhere Available) open source DRM, a system that is not meant to be completed for at least another 12 months.

This was revealed by the director of conditional access at Korean company Alticast, as he was speaking at a Sun Microsystems event at the end of March. Alticast revealed plans to build the DReaM conditional access system into an IPTV pilot, but also to build a commercial product based on it for implementation throughout the Far East. Sun says it is still between nine and 15 months away from a product, but since this is based on an Open source process, code exists already for most of the system.

This week Sun released the source code for two components of DReaM, its DReaM-CAS (Conditional Access System) and DReaMMMI (Mother May I) the underlying mechanism for always asking a central resource for permission to access content. In papers that Sun put out this week it has described both of these processes. DReaMCAS or D-CAS currently only manages access to content in the MPEG-2 format.

Sun told us in October that it plans to create a royalty-free, interoperable DRM technology, independent of any specific hardware or operating systems which focuses on the concept of a user being given access to content, rather than one specific device being authenticated. This is something that may come more easily to Sun, since it can rely on the Liberty Alliance initiative which is was also behind, for allowing a single copy of a persons identity to act as a trust source for other services, without having to reveal identities to other services.

Sun kicked off into DRM with a European Eurescom project started in 2001 and reported on in 2003, funnily enough called OPERA,where it worked with DMD Secure, Exavio, SDC AG and T-Systems and some European operators. The inappropriate name (Opera is a browser company) came from InterOPERAbility of DRM technologies.

SDC and Sun built a system that was based on the Java SIM card found inside a mobile phone, and had Windows Media DRM authenticated with RealNetworks, and RealNetworks authenticated with SDC’s client and all of it using the Java based SIM for identity.

The iCOD TV system (internet Contents on Demand) is being built now and phase one lasts until February 2007, by a combination of Korea Telecom, which is handling the network design including the QoS services, Etri which is handling MHP/OCAP compatible standardized middleware, Sitec making the set top and Alticast designing a downloadable Conditional Access system based on D-CAS and the EPG. It has been funded by the consortium and some Korean government money with the aim of Korea developing its own IPTV stack of components.

The network design is supposed to offer fast channel zapping by using a new version of the Internet Group Management Protocol (IGMP) although that is really only responsible for a small part of the delay time in a channel change. The system will use H.264 compression over an MPEG 2 transport stream.

Billing and purchasing of content is expected to work directly through the downloadable open source conditional access system. At present DReaM will only protect content through the network and is not yet ready to operate on stored video programming, although Sun is likely to address that prior to releasing products of its own.

The system uses AES encryption, requires a constantly open two way IP connection and it sends encrypted keys to the content along with the content, and these have to be decrypted by an existing public key. Entitlement messages are delivered out of band in a separate communication using the Mother May I protocols. More D-CAS applications will generate the entitlement messages, and a Java smart card will be used for authentication, which will store and manage viewers rights and viewing history.

The EPG that Alticast is designing looks similar to the successful Microsoft-demonstrated Mosaic system, and will show multiple live TV streams on one screen for selecting programming, as well as offering picture in picture capability for watching two views of the same program simultaneously.

Currently in Korea NDS dominates the conditional access market, with Nagravision coming a distant third, while Gemstar dominates EPG systems.

Copyright © 2006, Faultline

Faultline is published by Rethink Research, a London-based publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter is an assessment of the impact of the week's events in the world of digital media. Faultline is where media meets technology. Subscription details here.

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