Charter Books Sony `Passage'


Charter Communications Inc. became the first major MSO to buy into Sony
Electronics Corp.'s new technology aimed at breaking the traditional
cable-headend duopoly.

Charter has signed a licensing agreement with Sony to use the electronics
giant's new "Passage" technology, which would allow two or more
conditional-access systems to coexist in a cable digital headend. The market is
currently dominated by systems from Scientific-Atlanta Inc. and Motorola

By opening the conditional-access system up to more competitors, Charter
hopes it will open up the market for set-top boxes, network gear and headend
equipment, while not scrapping existing systems.

"With Sony's Passage technology, cable operators will have the freedom to
cost-effectively introduce alternative conditional-access systems into their
networks, which should encourage new manufacturers to develop new products and
accelerate innovation in the industry," Charter executive vice president and
chief technology officer Stephen Silva said.

"Opening up the cable-industry infrastructure will most certainly foster
competition and result in more choices and better services for consumers," he