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Comcast Commits to RDK-B

Mari Silbey
5/6/2014
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Following the wild success of the Reference Design Kit (RDK) for cable video hardware -- 140 licensees and counting -- Comcast is ready to bring the RDK concept to broadband gear.

During a panel session at The Cable Show, Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) CTO Tony Werner affirmed the company's commitment to RDK-B. The term was little heard before last week, but Werner used it to refer to early and continuing efforts to create an underlying and open software stack for cable broadband modems, routers, and gateways.

Hints of RDK-B emerged in April with a press release from RDK Management LLC , the joint-venture organization tasked with administering the Reference Design Kit. Describing the RDK roadmap, the release stated that "RDK community members are examining other customer premise devices, such as modems/routers, that could benefit from the RDK. Those devices, like STBs, have historically lacked a baseline of commonality and standardization that could be enhanced by the RDK."

On April 29, the other shoe dropped when Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) announced that it was contributing open-source routing software to the RDK community. The company described the contribution as a "key component of future RDK-based broadband products." The software provides a flexible control plane that is designed to allow operators to work within a modular system. It will create a standardized platform for broadband equipment and should make it easier to introduce new data services more quickly.

"To date, most of the RDK development has been focused on set-top boxes and gateway devices," said Steve Heeb, president and general manager of RDK Management. "Cisco's open-source contribution of routing software is an important step to help bring the RDK to a new class of broadband devices."

In a panel session at Light Reading's Cable Next-Gen Technologies & Strategies conference in March, operators and vendors alike were bullish on RDK as a strategy for speeding up new feature and service deployments. Unlike the Open Cable Application Platform (OCAP), RDK also allows significant customization by service providers who want to create or tailor their own user interfaces and customer experiences. Contrasting it to OCAP, Cisco vice president of business development Conrad Clemson said at the time, "RDK is almost like anti-middleware." (See Bye Bye OCAP, Hello RDK.)

Efforts to develop RDK-B are still very much in the early stages, but there is no question that Comcast plans to push the initiative forward. A recent job posting for a Comcast test program manager in New Jersey specifically referenced RDK-B in its description of the open position. From the job notice, "The TPM will work with the cross-functional teams on understanding business requirements for new products such as the RDK-B."

— Mari Silbey, special to Light Reading

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