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Channel Encryption
Syberian Style
Nickolas Ovsyadovsky

In the previous issue of our magazine we described the situation with recep-
tion of Russian channels both in European and Asian parts of the largest country
on Earth, and, as it turned out, oftenly it's not quite easy and requires some
brainwork, sometimes resulting in very interesting inventions (like unique solu-
tions to simultaneously receive C and Ku-band channels). But, unfortunately,
the problems don't stop there. It's not enough to just receive the digital satellite
signal, it also has to be decrypted.
Headquarters of Telecom company in Moscow

For the majority of Russians, especially the erable Scrambling System), which was devel- Company "Telecom", famous for it's research
ones not familiar with satellite reception and oped by EBU (European Broadcasting Union) in and development work in the telecommunica-
the choice that it offers, watching TV is asso- 2000. Broadcasters were afraid if this system tion area. "Roscrypt", which was developed
ciated with two channels - Perviy Kanal (pre- would completely fit to encrypt regular broad- by 2004 and based on the Common Interface
viously known as ORT) and Telekanal Rossiya casting, since it's original aim was to protect standard, has two variants - with or without
(RTR). History of these two goes back to old copyright-sensitive feed broadcasts. But as it smartcard. The first one is mainly aimed to
Soviet times, when they were known as chan- turned out, the system was supported by most protect Russian national channels from being
nels "1" and "2", and what might sound surpris- headend equipment, installed all over Russia, illegally received abroad, however, the devel-
ing - back then they were much more similair so different versions of Perviy Kanal and Tel- oper also claims that it can be used in small
to main state channels currently broadcasting ekanal Rossiya started to disappear step-by- cable networks aswell. Currently unused
in many countries. Watching them was not step from the FTA transponder charts. And second variant was prepared to be used by
too much fun - news and political programs, since in the European part of Russia terrestrial some country-wide pay TV project, however,
live broadcasts from the Parliament, classical coverage is quite good, plus such projects as the existing one uses a different system, more
music concerts, old movies, that was pretty Tricolor and NTV Plus provided reception of popular in Europe.
much it. And as the country changed, so did above mentioned channels, encryption didn't
it's television. Rapidly and dramatically. affect the big picture. But again, once the Ural Roscrypt, introduced by Perviy Kanal, left
mountains were behind, it started to get com- the viewers even more shocked. Forums and
What an average Russian now gets for free plicated. newsgroups are full with messages stating that
from these two channels is normally only it was not hacked and there are major hard-
broadcasted on premium pay channels or even In the Asian part of Russia, where it's physi- ships with hacking it, but they hope it's just
pay-per-view in other countries. What about cally impossible to install enough terrestrial a matter of time. However, "Telecom" claims
a fresh hit movie from Hollywood, which was transmitters, a lot of people used satellite Roscrypt to be a very secure system, much
released on DVD only a couple of weeks ago, dishes to receive the two main state channels. more protected then some well-known foreign
top football match or boxing event, maybe a Encryption was a total shock for them, espe- rivals, because the keys can be updated a lot

Pervij Kanal Telekanal Rossiya

Formula-1 race ? Just tune to Perviy Kanal or cially when it turned out that it's not planned more often, plus unique, Russian-standard
Telekanal Rossiya in prime time and let them to sell receivers/smartcards to private individ- encryption algorythms are used. According to
positively surprise you. Differently from old uals. Perviy Kanal and Telekanal Rossiya also developer's information, currently used keys
times, all this content is purchased legally, broadcast the so-called "international" ver- are guaranteed safe for at least 3 years, while
and it's not hard for the broadcasters to cover sions, with all expensive content replaced with the not-yet-activated ones - for up to 10 years.
the price, because advertising rates on these cheap South American soap operas, and some Sounds good, but let's see what the reality will
channels are sky high today. But even if it's of the viewers accepted this as a replacement. show.
enough money to pay for the broadcasting But the smart ones went a different way, and
rights for Russia, neighbouring countries are the BISS system was pretty quickly hacked. It's also interesting to see, what the future
not supposed to get all the "cool stuff". And Different Internet forums became full with holds for Russian commercial TV channels,
since the Hollywood studios and other copy- information on how to decrypt the so-much- such as NTV, STS, REN-TV and others. At the
right holders become more and more strict wanted content. moment they are FTA on majority of satellites,
with this, so do the broadcasters, and the two but how long will this last ? The only thing we
main Russian channels are no exception. Of course, broadcasters were not happy can do is wait and see. Let's just hope that
with such news, especially Perviy Kanal, with sooner or later every Russian, no mater where
First encryption system, which was intro- highest advertisement rates and most expen- he lives, in Kaliningrad or Vladivostok, would
duced to protect the expensive content of sive programming. This lead to the appearing receive as many free channels as an average
Russian channels, was the BISS (Basic Interop- of "Roscrypt" system, by Russian Joint Stock Moscovite. Over 15 that is.

36 TELE-satellite International — www.TELE-satellite.com