How RDK Can Be a Change Agent


The cable industry is seeking change. Across the industry, MSOs of all sizes are making decisions today that will profoundly affect how they will develop and deploy new services for years to come.

This change is clearly needed, and it’s clear that it must come in two forms: speed and a common industry framework.

Simply put, the industry needs to accelerate the develop-deploy-deliver cycle achieve a “service velocity” on par with what consumers have experienced on Web-based platforms. To do this, today’s typical set-top box and gateway architectures must evolve to a common framework that serves operators, integrators, original equipment manufacturers and system-on-a-chip (SoC) vendors in a more efficient and consistent way. Plus, achieving a common framework with global reach creates an almost irresistible platform where MVPDs and developers can create the innovative new products and services that customers demand.

The Reference Design Kit (RDK) was developed specifically to help the industry embrace and grow with this change. Its focus is to help accelerate the deployment of nextgeneration services, empowering operators to be able to introduce products in mere months, rather than years, across next-generation Internet-protocol devices and set-top boxes. The RDK provides agility at the core software/hardware layers of settops and gateways. It enables collaboration and commonality in a pre-integrated software bundle that is based on open Web/IP technologies. This is a way for us as an industry to leave behind our old proprietary roots and embrace a framework that off ers faster innovation cycles and service delivery.

The RDK has made significant progress over the past year. In fact, we’ve grown to more than 100 RDK licensees in 2013, from companies big and small, who share a common vision. The benefits of the RDK are already being seen in many parts of the ecosystem, including service providers, integrators and SoC vendors and OEMs. Comcast, for example, has used the RDK to successfully reduce the time to market to deliver a new enhanced user interface, and that’s just the beginning.

Service providers around the world have begun to adopt the RDK, and new deployments are on track for 2014. Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Liberty Global are all actively engaged in the RDK, and other operators across North America, Europe, Asia, Latin America and beyond are interested in joining us. Indeed, this fall, we were part of a private gathering at IBC, and the interest and attendance from operators around the globe was inspiring. This critical mass, which accounts for a sizeable installed base, will bring economies of scale that will benefit the entire community and in turn will help lift the boats of service providers of all sizes in many regions.

Integrators are already working closely to expand the RDK to small and midsized operators here in North America, Europe and around the world. Their expertise will enable millions of global deployments in the coming years, while saving MSOs significant development and deployment costs through efficiencies and cutting redundancies in R&D work.

SoC vendors and OEMs have a new path forward that breaks free from the limits inherent to supporting and upgrading proprietary, dissimilar architectures. The RDK provides a common framework on which to base future development and provides global consistency, scale and sales opportunities across operators. Going forward, SoC vendors and OEMs will find differentiation through innovation, less inhibited by the stagnation that comes with proprietary support of legacy hardware and software.

Collectively, the diverse parts of the ecosystem have clearly begun to recognize the advantages of a collaborative and more streamlined development cycle. Growing this already strong base of RDK support is a key focus for 2014.

Looking forward into next year and beyond, the future of the pay TV industry is firmly centered in IP video delivery that can respond to competitive pressures and rapidly innovate and deploy new services. The underlying Web infrastructure of the RDK will open markets and change the way all aspects of the pay TV ecosystem do business. The RDK has the unique advantage of positioning all aspects of the ecosystem to be able to develop, deploy and deliver this service better than ever before.

Ultimately, successfully bridging the path from legacy networks to all-IP devices with a developer-centric common framework is the formula for long-term growth in a rapidly changing business. And, most importantly, it’s the key to creating new and compelling services that will continually reinforce the incredible value of pay TV subscriptions.

Steve Heeb is president and general manager of RDK Management LLC.