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Three’s Company In RDK Consortium

The desire of Comcast and Time Warner Cable to bring global scale to the Reference Design Kit for set-tops got a big boost overseas last week as Liberty Global took a “strategic stake” in the joint venture managing the project.

Following an earlier decision to license the RDK, a pre-integrated software bundle aimed at accelerating the development of Internet protocol-capable set-tops and gateways, Liberty Global expanded its commitment by becoming a member of RDK Management LLC, the joint venture formed by Comcast and Time Warner Cable last August.

Liberty Global’s financial and ownership stake in the joint venture was not disclosed, but the MSO, which operates extensively in Europe, “will provide technical, financial, and management oversight resources to support the joint venture,” according to the announcement.

Comcast was identified as the “managing member” in the JV when it was formed last year and is expected to maintain that role going forward.

Liberty Global has already begun to apply RDK technology into the development of a new cloudbased user interface that will grace its “Horizon” video platform. The MSO expects to start rolling out its cloud UI in the next 30 to 45 days, chief technology officer Balan Nair said last week at the Cable Congress event in Amsterdam, according to media reports.

Liberty Global has been rolling out Horizon, a platform powered by Samsung boxes, to most of its European properties. The exception is Virgin Media, which has been leaning on Samsung boxes that run the TiVo platform. TiVo has not announced an RDK product, but a portion of TiVo’s 2014 budget includes dollars earmarked for RDK development.

Liberty Global’s expanded involvement seemingly solidifies the company’s long-term interest in the RDK.

And it plays into the RDK’s global ambitions. RDK Management is already working on a 2.0 version of the stack that will strip out U.S.-centric technology requirements to ensure that it’s compatible with cable systems that use Digital Video Broadcasting (DVB), a standard that is popular in Europe.

Liberty Global’s grander commitment should also add scale and drive down costs for the RDK ecosystem, which today includes more than 120 total licensees. Of that total, 15 are service operators.

Among MSOs publicly declared as RDK licensees, only one, Comcast, has deployed product based on the platform. It’s using RDK-based boxes to run X1, its IP-capable, next-gen video platform that’s been rolled out across its footprint.

TWC and Kabel Deutschland plan to use the RDK to power next-gen IP video products.

Rogers Communications of Canada, Jupiter Communications of Japan, and Cox Communications have expressed interest in the RDK. Of that group, Cox has also held talks with Comcast about licensing the X1 platform.

“We believe RDK provides a baseline of standardization that will yield faster development and launch cycles of next-generation in-home devices and video services. It’s a key part of our product roadmap,” Nair said, in a statement. “The combination of leading North American and European operators will enable RDK to build global scale and accelerate benefits to all RDK licensees.”

“Our goal has always been to design a solution that would help operators around the world,” Steve Heeb, president and GM of RDK Management, added. “We are confident that Liberty Global will provide invaluable knowledge and leadership as we continue to expand our licensee base and provide MVPDs with an underlying software bundle that can enable cloudbased services, modern UIs, and faster development cycles of IP-connected devices.”

Heeb also serves as vice president of licensing and strategic development at Comcast.

TAKEAWAY

Liberty Media’s decision to take a “strategic stake” in the RDK consortium will boost the spec’s global ambitions.

RDK Development By the Numbers

MSO members: 3

Operator licensees: 15

Overall licensees: 120-plus*

*Includes mix of operators, set-top and chip makers, video soft ware vendors, and test and integration companies

SOURCE: RDK Development, Multichannel News research