Consolidation within the industry shows no sign of stopping. The EU approves BSkyB’s proposed acquisition of Sky Deutschland and Sky Italia. Vodafone CEO hints at interest in more acquisitions after its recent purchase of Spain’s largest cable operator – Ono. And that’s only a couple of examples. You would imagine that the inevitable consequence for the “mega” operator is the headache of being locked into multiple long-term vendors.

A recent customer meeting reassured me that operators are interested in breaking free. They just need the headache tablet.

Is it a wider problem? 
The meeting was with a major Telco who had grown through acquisition. What was interesting to me was whether a problem statement, which Irdeto had identified for North American operators, existed elsewhere. My antenna was listening out for:

  • Complexity of managing multiple vendors
  • Frustration with vendor lock-in
  • Desire to focus on their core business

Two out of three
As a result of their acquisition strategy, the operator is well versed in vendor optimization. Indeed, for the CA systems of their DTH platform they are down to 3 vendors. The team admitted that, even with a reduced number, the complexity remains when managing multiple CA; chip; DRM; STB vendors. As an example 26 different STB platforms and 52 different models are in use across their subscriber base – each requiring ongoing management by the operator.

What’s more, it was clear that they felt vendor lock-in affected their time to market. Some vendors were just too slow responding. Flexibility to work with whichever vendor they choose, while retaining control of their own keys was a position they wanted to get to.

Facing the elephant in the room 
Was it hypocritical of CA vendor to be discussing a solution that would break vendor lock-in of its fellow vendors? No, I don’t think so. From my perspective, the industry is evolving to a more open environment. Success will be generated through collaboration.

Last but not least
Continuing to paint a picture of their ideal world, the operator explained that they would prefer to focus on their core business: growing their subscriber base, remaining competitive, reducing churn, etc. This was their area of expertise and what they were passionate about. To achieve this they needed to find a partner who understands the intricacies of security and has established relationships with the key STB and chip vendors. Put simply, they are looking to hand off the complexity to a trusted security partner.

Making it a reality
At the end of the meeting two things were clear. The problem did exist elsewhere and as consolidation continues it is likely that other providers will start to experience similar challenges. And the operator learnt that their ideal world could be reality today. An independent managed service that operates all processes and workflows for security management is available now.