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Sony's Passage to Get a Comcast Trial

Sony Corp. booked the biggest passenger for its Passage technology last week during the National Show last week, striking a deal with Comcast Corp. to trial the multiple conditional-access system.

The nation's largest MSO, which has tested Passage in its labs for several months, joined Charter Communications Inc. on the list of MSOs now officially working with the fledgling system.

With the Comcast announcement the technology goes from test bench to real world.

Since its debut at the Western Show in December, Passage has been in test mode with Charter and Comcast. The Comcast trial moves the technology from test bench to real world. While the location is not being disclosed, the trial will involve "friendlies" — employees who will take home boxes utilizing other conditional-access systems.

"We were really allowed to trial the Passage technology to the level where we could bring it to Anaheim, and able to bring it into a true cable plant at NCTA," said Greg Gurdorf, senior vice president of Sony's digital platform division of America.

Passage is aimed at breaking the conditional-access duopoly of Scientific-Atlanta Inc. and Motorola Inc. MSOs have had to commit to a single conditional-access system to control the encryption and authentication for video flowing from the headend to digital set-top boxes.

Passage would allow multiple conditional access systems to operate side by side.