1. Can different types of Set Top Boxes (STB) be controlled by a single remote control?
A: A universal controller can replace multiple remote control devices, with variable ease-of-use, depending on the specification.
2. Can an integrated Digital TV set receive TV signals from cable, satellite, terrestrial and internet?
A: To be able to receive TV services, an iDTV requires the corresponding inbuilt tuner/receiver. Usually iDTVs are manufactured with terrestrial tuners for reception of services transmitted via the terrestrial network. In addition to the terrestrial tuner, a few iDTVs have an inbuilt satellite or cable signal tuner, or a combination of these. More recently, some models have added wireless internet interface. To avoid increasing the iDTV's bill of materials, the manufacturer may produce it with only the features that are required to meet commercial demand. European regulation requires that iDTVs above a certain size have an interface which would allow for access to other platform's services if used in conjunction with a conditional access module.
Furthermore, like any other TV set, with an appropriate external STB connected to it an iDTV can receive TV signals from cable, satellite or internet.
3. Why do many subscription agreements oblige a subscriber to use a STB made available by the satellite, cable, terrestrial or IPTV company?
A: In order to guarantee the quality and integrity of the service to their subscribers, service providers will often specify the features and fundamental specifications of STBs. In particular these will include conditional access for content protection (and to ensure the subscriber receives the services to which he is entitled) and middleware for interactive services which allows differentiation between service providers. Service providers may choose the manufacturers who make the STBs or allow any manufacturer to do so, subject to them complying with the required features. STBs can be made available directly from the service provider or in retail outlets. Whilst normally a STB is linked to a subscription some service providers allow the STBs to be solely for free to air viewing.
4. Why do I have to have different STBs to receive TV via cable, satellite, terrestrial and internet?
A: The STB provides access to the digital channels available through a television service provider. A STB requires the corresponding tuner/receiver to be able to receive cable, satellite, terrestrial or internet signals. For example, a terrestrial tuner cannot decode a signal transmitted via satellite or vice-versa for physical reasons. STBs usually are manufactured with customisation to a market or service provider which uses a determined transmission mechanism. To avoid increasing the STB's bill of materials, the manufacturer produces the box with only the necessary tuner interfaces, required by determined market. A "universal STB" would burden all users with additional cost and need to be replaced more often as the many services it would need to support, evolved.
5. Can I use the same STB that I use to watch TV at home when I travel or immigrate to another country inside the EU?
A: Not usually. In many cases content rights are acquired on a geographical basis to reflect consumer demand and the content may not be distributed outside of a country, e.g. by using a CA systems. In addition, services and transmission parameters tend to vary from country to country, and receivers manufactured to fit a determined market/country may be incompatible with another. This is not only due to technical implementation differences between EU countries, but also the service offering may also differ. For example, in the UK, the interactive services for the Freeview terrestrial platform are based on MHEG. In Italy, MHP is used.
6. Why do I have to pay a subscription in order to watch some TV services?
A: Production, packaging and distribution of television content (in the same way as music) has associated costs. There are, therefore, a number of choices as to how artists and production companies etc are recompensed for their work. There are three main business models adopted around the world; free-to-air (supported by licence fee or government funding), commercial television (supported by advertising) and pay television (supported by subscription). Availability of these three models allows customer choice, helps to foster innovation and allows funding of content that would otherwise not be commercially viable.
7. What is Content Protection?
A: Content Protection systems enforce the subscriber entitlements associated with a piece of content, such as for example, whether or how many times you can make a copy, or for how long you can keep it. Those rights were delivered (and usually paid for, often by way of a subscription) using a CA or DRM system.
8. What are the different forms of content protection available for video protection?
A: CA: Conditional Access (controlled access to a service); DRM: Digital Rights Management (controlled access to specific content); Content Protection (systems that enforce the rights given by a CA or DRM - such anti-taping or copy management).
9. What is Conditional Access and what are the benefits of using it?
A: Conditional Access is a system that "conditionally allows access to a service"; such as a suite of TV channels, a specific TV channel or even an individual programme. It is traditionally used in broadcast systems (where many receivers receive an identical signal) for either or both of the following reasons: 1) to determine which viewers are allowed access to the service; 2) to restrict overspill of the broadcasting thus limiting the content viewing to the country or region for which the broadcaster has the rights. CA systems are therefore not only used by Pay TV operators but also by Free TV broadcasters, and this can be the case even within the same country.
Production, packaging and distribution of television content (in the same way as music) have associated costs. There are, therefore, a number of choices as to how artists and production companies etc are recompensed for their work. One of the main business models adopted around the world is pay television (supported by subscription). Conditional Access allows the protection and funding of content that would otherwise not be commercially viable.
10. What's Digital Rights Management (DRM) and what are the benefits of using it?
A: Digital rights management (DRM) is a system that "associates the usage rights with a specific piece of content". It is particularly well suited to "two-way" delivery systems, such as broadband and mobile TV - where each piece of content is often uniquely delivered to each user.
As DRM associates usage rights with specific content, it has the potential to offer greater flexibility of usage to consumers and rights owners. For example, content might be allowed to be stored and viewed for a controlled period of time using a DRM (due to the greater flexibility in expressing acceptable usage situations when negotiating terms with the content owners).
The individual delivery, combined with the rights being securely associated with the content, makes DRM a powerful tool in the fight against the illegal file-sharing of commercially marketed content.
11. Does DRM or CA pose any threats to my privacy?
A: No. DRM and CA are designed to be reliable, compatible extensions to existing devices to expand the range of content accessible to the consumer. To be secure and reliable, these extensions are developed in cooperation with the device manufacturers and content distributors. DRM and CA systems only apply to protected content, and rely upon strong encryption to protect the digital identifiers and keys used to enable authorised viewers to access protected content.
Moreover, subscription agreements between audiovisual media service providers and their customers typically guarantee that the collection and processing of any personal data is in line with data protection laws.
12. What is a Conditional Access Module (CAM)?
A: A Conditional Access Module is a plug-in module to provide the conditional access function usually integrated into a Set Top Box. Slotting into the common interface it provides a standardised physical and logical connection between the decoding/display unit (such as integrated Digital Television) and the conditional access function. The current common interface standard approved by ETSI, DVB-CI (integrated into certain idTVs and some STBs to meet national regulatory requirements), does not allow for encryption of the interface between receiver and the CA module. Another specification has been developed by some members of the Consumer Electronic industry within the "CI Plus Forum", to ensure this interface is protected.
13. What is the Common Scrambling Algorithm (CSA)?
A: The Common Scrambling Algorithm is the encryption algorithm available in the DVB digital television broadcasts for protecting the content in video streams. The CSA allows for a high degree of commonality between different content protection suppliers, while permitting multiple approaches in the specifics of how content viewing rights are securely managed and delivered. This ability to support multiple approaches is essential to fostering innovation in business models, and protecting legitimate content distribution stakeholders against piracy.
14. Can I take my smartcard from one operator and put it in another STB I just bought in the free market to keep getting services from that operator?
A: In general this is not possible. Good content protection requires detailed coordination of the technical capabilities of the STB with the specific content protection requirements implemented via the smartcard. To provide the best protection for the best price to the consumer, smartcards are optimised to fit the needs of specific markets and operators. Those needs will vary from market to market, and from operator to operator.
15. Can TV programmes and movies recorded in a STB's hard drive be copied into different devices such as DVDs, the PC or mobile phone?
A: In principle yes, however certain content will be prevented from being copied due to licensing restrictions or in some cases due to national copyright regulation, e.g. first run high definition movie content, pay-per-view movies.
In addition, there may be technical reasons that the target device may not be able to play such content, e.g. a mobile phone would be unlikely to have the processing power or storage to play a high definition movie that was targeted to the STB.