Comcast, TWC to Co-Manage Set-Top-Focused RDK Project

Comcast and Time Warner Cable have formed a joint venture, called RDK Management LLC, that will manage the Reference Design Kit (RDK), a pre-integrated bundle of software that will support a new breed of hybrid  QAM/IP and IP-only  set-tops, gateways and video client devices.

The new entity, announced Thursday, will handle RDK licensing, community support and training, as well as code management. Comcast will contribute RDK components into the new entity, including the RDK code and specifications, related intellectual property rights and associated contracts, including all of the current RDK licenses which will be transitioned to the RDK Management LLC.

Time Warner Cable will "provide additional technical guidance, contribute code and financial support to the new entity," though the terms are not being disclosed, a TWC spokeswoman said via email.

The RDK Central Web site is expected to serve as the Web hub of the RDK J.V.

More than 100 companies, including set-top and chipmakers, system integrators, software vendors and MSOs, have inked RDK licenses since the project debuted in early 2012. Liberty Global and Charter Communications have previously been linked to the RDK. The RDK Central Web site identifies Canada’s Rogers Communications and Japan’s J:COM as being part of the “RDK Community.”

The RDK works with the CableLabs OCAP Reference Implementation middleware, as well as other open source components.  

The RDK originated out of Comcast, but word of the joint venture will bring more scale and unity to the project, as the J.V. will aim to tie together the efforts of the two largest U.S. cable operators, which serve more than 34 million video subscribers combined. The J.V. came together "because the RDK is a community effort, and we felt it deserved an independent entity focused on supporting the evolution of the RDK and all its members," a spokeswoman noted in an email accomodating the release announcing the formation of the combined entity. 

The exact ownership breakdown of the new JV was not immediately known, but Comcast is the “managing member,” a spokeswoman said.  The day-to-day operations of RDK Management LLC will be run by a yet-to-be-named president, she added.

Comcast’s X1 platform, currently powered by Pace-made devices and rolled out in 28 markets, is the first deployed implementation of the RDK.

Time Warner Cable has not announced any specific product plans involving the RDK, but a spokeswoman said the MSO intends to use the RDK "as the platform for our next generation CPE."

The MSO is developing an IP-capable platform that will team gateways with IP-only devices and support a cloud-based interface that is currently being tested in select markets. Arris, via way of its acquisition of Motorola Home in April, will support TWC’s initial rollout of the hosted navigation product and related IP-based devices.

At The Cable Show in June, video software and integration specialist Alticast had on display an IP-only client device made by startup firm iNovo said to be running TWC’s “flavor” of the RDK. Duluth, Ga.-based iNovo was founded by former Cisco Systems and Scientific Atlanta execs.