CenturyLink Evaluating the RDK

CenturyLink confirmed that it has licensed the Reference Design Kit (RDK), making it the first U.S. telco to affirm its interest in using a pre-integrated software stack for IP-capable and hybrid IP/QAM set-tops and gateways that’s being managed by Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Liberty Global.

“We are evaluating RDK and other platforms for CenturyLink’s next-generation video strategy,” a CenturyLink official said in an emailed statement, noting that the telco plans to share more on the project in “the coming months.”

CenturyLink currently runs its IP-based “Prism TV” service on Ericsson Mediaroom, the middleware platform Ericsson acquired from Microsoft in September 2013.

CenturyLink is using that platform, also in use by AT&T for its U-verse TV service, in several markets, including La Crosse, Wis.; Columbia and Jefferson City, Mo.; Tallahassee, Fla. (and areas covering central and southwest Florida; Las Vegas; Phoenix; Omaha, Neb.; Denver, Colorado Springs, and Highlands Ranch, Colo. CenturyLink ended 2014 with more than 240,000 Prism TV customers.

“We anticipate expanding Prism TV service to additional households and markets during the second half of 2015,” Glen Post, CenturyLink’s CEO, said in February during the company’s fourth quarter earnings call. Minneapolis is among the cities the telco is seeking TV franchises.

While CenturyLink has not made its final technology picks for its next-gen platform (Ericsson, the telco’s current partner, launched an upgraded, multiscreen-capable version of Mediaroom last fall), the RDK could enable CenturyLink to benefit from the scale the RDK ecosystem represents.

RDK Management announced last week that more than 220 companies have licensed the stack. That group includes a mix of CE manufacturers, chipmakers, software developers, system integrators and pay TV operators. Of the latter group, 25 are cable operators, telcos and satellite TV service providers. Known service provider licensees include Comcast, TWC, Liberty Global, Rogers Communications, Kabel Deutschland, and Japan’s J:COM.

CenturyLink also has some familiarity with the group that’s managing the RDK. Aamir Hussain, named CenturyLink’s executive vice president and chief technology officer last fall, most recently served as Liberty Global’s managing director and CTO for Europe.

For more detail on the status and direction of the RDK, please see a Q&A in this week’s edition of Multichannel News (pgs. A6-A8 of the INTX: Focus on Tech supplement) with Steve Heeb, the Comcast executive who was named president and general manager of RDK Management in September 2013.