Time Warner Cable is tinkering with a new technology from Scientific-Atlanta Inc. that enables S-A digital boxes to operate on cable systems based on Motorola Broadband 's MediaCipher conditional access platform. Time Warner is testing the technology in Beaumont, Texas, confirmed an MSO spokesman.
"We are testing and debugging the technology with S-A to assess its technical merit and feasibility, as well as receiving the operational impacts it has on our divisions," an MSO spokesman said in a statement sent via e-mail.
Though rumored for months, S-A's overlay strategy first came to light publicly late last month when company executives mentioned it during a quarterly conference call with press and analysts. At the time, S-A said its overlay technology would help it boost Explorer set-top shipments by less than five percent.
S-A has been reluctant to discuss how its overlay technology works or when it might become available commercially, but sources familiar with it have said it shares traits similar to Sony Passage, a platform that allows a second conditional access system to operate next to a legacy CA.
Comcast Cable and Charter Communications were the first MSOs to announce Passage field trials.
With S-A's digital overlay, a cable operator can run the PowerKEY CA and, therefore, deploy S-A's DVR-capable Explorer 8000 and Explorer 8000HD models on Motorola-based cable systems. The overlay is also designed to support CAs other than PowerKEY.
"We realize that this creates a 'double' headend environment for our divisions to manage, and want to consider all factors prior to making a commitment to the technology," Time Warner added. "We are optimistic at this point that it can be successfully integrated into our current Motorola environments, but the technical aspects are just one of many considerations."
Although S-A is considered the second half of the U.S. cable CA duopoly, gaining access to Motorola markets could add heat to an already competitive cable set-top sector.