& cplSiteName &

Beyond RDK: A New TV Turf War

Mari Silbey
5/30/2014
50%
50%

There's a land-grab taking place on cable set-tops.

Now that the industry has blessed the Reference Design Kit (RDK) -- the pre-integrated software bundle for IP video rollouts initially developed by Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) -- cable vendors are working overtime to sell their own software solutions designed to sit on top of the RDK stack. From such giants as Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) and Arris Group Inc. (Nasdaq: ARRS) to independent specialists like Espial Group Inc. and Alticast Corp. , everyone wants a piece of set-top software territory.

The context of the new turf war requires a brief history lesson. For years Motorola and Scientific Atlanta controlled the set-top environment because of their conditional access technology. Motorola boxes predominantly carried guide software from Gemstar-TV Guide International, which became Macrovision and then turned into Rovi Corp. , while Scientific Atlanta boxes shipped with that company's own SARA guide.

Through a combination of the separable security mandate and the surge in IP video, however, that duopoly started to fracture. The OCAP middleware era followed, and while the Open Cable Application Platform never lived up to its potential, it did lead eventually to RDK, which is rapidly becoming the de facto standard for IP video in the North American cable market and beyond. (See Bye Bye OCAP, Hello RDK.)

Fast forward to today. Now that several cable companies have standardized on the open RDK stack, lots of vendors see a fresh opportunity to grab space in the new set-top frontier land. Many of them are hoping that cable operators will sign off on another software stack, one that bundles several functions together and works in conjunction with RDK. In theory, selling a stack is more valuable than selling a single application. And in an ideal scenario for these vendors, cable companies would standardize on the second stack, locking up set-top real estate across multiple MSO footprints.

Mike Paxton, a senior analyst at SNL Kagan , however, believes that cable operators don't necessarily want to standardize on software above the RDK level. Instead, it appears that the MSOs would rather encourage competition and further development. "It almost seems to me like the operators … are saying develop around RDK and show us something cool or different on top of that," said Paxton.

Many vendors are trying to do just that, differentiating their software stacks with different types of advanced features.

Some of the companies recently touting new software stacks include Espial, Minerva Networks Inc. , and Zodiac Interactive . Espial was one of the first companies to license the RDK bundle, and the company started showcasing the Espial STB Client in the first half of 2013.

The Espial software stack includes an application framework that supports traditional program guides, an HTML5 browser, DVR functions, and video on demand. Espial also offers its own HTML5-based user interface that operators can implement if they choose. The company's RDK-compliant software stack has already been deployed by an unnamed Tier 1 North American cable operator.

Minerva is a long-time middleware provider in the telecom industry, but it is coming out with its own RDK-compliant software for the cable market this summer. The Minerva 10 platform running on RDK will operate on hybrid QAM/IP video gateways, and is specifically designed to deliver multiscreen service to both managed and unmanaged devices. The platform also comes with a user interface framework, including Minerva's own HTML5 guide and native applications for mobile devices, streaming media players, and connected TVs. (See Minerva Goes Multiscreen With RDK.)

Zodiac's software stack is notable because it uses a blend of cloud-based and client-based software components to support not only newer set-tops but also legacy boxes like the old Motorola DCT2000. The PowerUp Video Broadcast Solution (VBS) supports multiscreen video delivery and integrates with HTML5 for next-generation UI designs. Zodiac has two large service provider customers using PowerUp VBS in North America. One is Charter Communications Inc. , while the other is still unnamed. (See Zodiac: One Software Stack to Rule Them All.)

Alticast is yet another veteran middleware vendor that has put its own twist on RDK integration. By combining RDK with Android, Alticast has created a software solution for pay-TV providers who want to deploy HDMI streaming sticks instead of, or in addition to, traditional set-tops. The company also has its own HTML5 program guide, dubbed the Windmill user interface. (See Alticast Primps for Vegas Spotlight.)

Beyond these independent software suppliers, there are also large competitors, including Cisco and Arris, who are selling platforms that include software modules for everything from HTML5-based UIs to advanced advertising, content management, content security, multiscreen service delivery, and more. Both Cisco and Arris have made a big push for their respective Videoscape and Medios platforms. But, as cable operators appear to be expressing their preference for more targeted products, the two companies are just as likely now to promote single services like cloud DVR as the larger end-to-end solutions.

In analyst Paxton's view, no vendor has yet come out with a single killer app or software stack, which means that competition will likely remain fierce. "There's a lot of maneuvering and jockeying for position," he said.

That's certainly a very different situation than existed only a few years ago. The cable software market is now wide open.

— Mari Silbey, special to Light Reading

(8)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
thebulk
50%
50%
thebulk,
User Rank: Light Sabre
6/28/2014 | 1:35:00 PM
Re: Standards battle
@nasimson, 

Unfortonatly, you are probably correct. the STB will be around for far too long. :-(
nasimson
50%
50%
nasimson,
User Rank: Light Sabre
6/27/2014 | 8:48:35 PM
Re: Standards battle
@thebulk: I also excitedly look forward to such time. But that is not coming anytime soon. Set top box is a tough animal. It's not going to die very soon.
Chaigneau
50%
50%
Chaigneau,
User Rank: Light Beer
6/27/2014 | 11:04:03 AM
Re: adopted as-is
If only the Big Cable Companies were converging on a single standard! 

The RDK is 'certain components' in a shared (private club) source code methodology.  It is clearly staed that this is not a COMPLETE stack and you have to add a whole plethora of software to manage things like a PVR, Metadata, Network integration, Application Framework amongst many other components...

Each RDK implementation is built (coded) differently and I do not believe that the LLC would look at every line of code to check whether it is is good or bad code.

There is no Compliance and Conformance regime so anyone can claim RDK compliance

There is a long history of OnRamp, EBIF, MHEG5, MHP, OCAP, Tru2Way all trying to bring the CPE/STB a single solution the Comcast + TWC is still a repeat of the ODL and the RI from Cable Labs...

Free enginnering for the Operators - Open Source Code that has been forked in a private project.  No incentive for a Vendor to invest if you are not paid to develop new code as there is no guarantee that you will get the STB sale or the Systems Implementers job ... Many holes in this initiative I am afraid.

The idea is sane, the execution is all over the place.
thebulk
50%
50%
thebulk,
User Rank: Light Sabre
5/31/2014 | 10:54:32 PM
Re: Standards battle
@FakeMitchWagner, 

I ask the same question about something like this. with the growth in the OTT space I think the settop will soon be a thing of the past. But thats just me... 
nasimson
50%
50%
nasimson,
User Rank: Light Sabre
5/30/2014 | 6:47:59 PM
Re: adopted as-is
Thanks for explaining it. I get the full picture now. It's good to see the BIG cable companies converging on a single standard.
msilbey
50%
50%
msilbey,
User Rank: Blogger
5/30/2014 | 1:57:03 PM
Re: adopted as-is
It's not an official standard open to ratification, but RDK has gotten a tremendous amount of support from chip makers, hardware manufacturers, and software guys, many of whom are now licensing the stack. 

Comcast developed the initial code, but others are now contributing to it. The software is managed by a group called RDK Management, which is a joint venture between Comcast, Time Warner, and Liberty Global. 
nasimson
50%
50%
nasimson,
User Rank: Light Sabre
5/30/2014 | 1:21:11 PM
adopted as-is
@ Mari:

> Now that the industry has blessed the Reference Design Kit (RDK) -- the
> pre-integrated software bundle for IP video rollouts initially developed by
> Comcast ..

So were the initial specs developed by Comcast adopted as is? Or were there significant changes before industry ratified the standard?
Mitch Wagner
50%
50%
Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
5/30/2014 | 11:17:33 AM
Standards battle
Does this kind of standards battle become less important with the emergence of OTT services? Perhaps set-top boxes -- and standards for them -- matter less when people are watching video on their Roku or Apple TV? I realize cord-cutters are still a small minority but that may be the wave of the future. 
Light Reading’s Upskill U is a FREE, interactive, online educational resource that delivers must-have education on themes that relate to the overall business transformation taking place in the communications industry.
NEXT COURSE
Wednesday, September 28, 1:00PM EDT
Gigabit 101
Will Barkis, Senior Technology Analyst, Orange
UPCOMING COURSE SCHEDULE
Friday, September 30, 1:00PM EDT
Gigabit & the Great Migration
Robert Howald, Vice President, Network Architecture, Comcast
Wednesday, October 5, 1:00PM EDT
Gigabit & Smart Cities
Joe Kochan, COO & Co-Founder, US Ignite
Friday, October 7, 1:00PM EDT
Gigabit & DOCSIS 3.1
Ty Pearman, Director, Access Architecture, Comcast
in association with:
From The Founder
Light Reading today starts a new voyage as part of a larger Enterprise.
Flash Poll
Live Streaming Video
Charting the CSP's Future
Six different communications service providers join to debate their visions of the future CSP, following a landmark presentation from AT&T on its massive virtualization efforts and a look back on where the telecom industry has been and where it's going from two industry veterans.
LRTV Documentaries
MEC Congress: The Key Takeaways

9|22|16   |   03:25   |   (3) comments


Three key takeaways from the Mobile Edge Computing (MEC) Congress in Munich, Germany.
Wagner’s Ring
Time to Shut Up About 'Dumb Pipes'

9|22|16   |     |   (12) comments


Service providers can't compete with OTT players. It just isn't in their DNA. Instead, service providers need to embrace what they're good at -- providing reliable, secure connectivity.
Wagner’s Ring
Keeping Your Tech Career Going After 50

9|21|16   |     |   (13) comments


How do you keep your career moving forward when you're past the half-century mark?
LRTV Interviews
Peering Into the Digital Future

9|20|16   |   04:25   |   (0) comments


Nick Thomas, practice leader of digital media at Ovum, talks about how digital transformation in the technology, media and telecom sectors will enable the development of a new range of applications and services for enterprises and consumers and how the upcoming Digital Futures event in London will examine ...
LRTV Custom TV
Napatech Tackles NFV's Major Challenge

9|7|16   |   08:42   |   (0) comments


One of the main challenges for network operators introducing NFV is to combine performance and flexibility in a cost-effective way, but there is a solution, explains Napatech's Dan Joe Barry.
LRTV Custom TV
Huawei Optical Innovation 2016

9|6|16   |     |   (0) comments


Highlights of the 2016 Huawei Optical Innovation forum.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Are You Ready for Huawei Connect 2016?

8|31|16   |     |   (0) comments


Join us for an exclusive sneak peak of Huawei Connect, an integrated conference for the global ICT ecosystem taking place in Shanghai.
Between the CEOs
CEO Chat: UXP's Gemini Waghmare

8|26|16   |     |   (0) comments


Light Reading CEO Steve Saunders and UXP Systems CEO Gemini Waghmare discuss the strategic importance of digital identity for operators in the midst of transformation.
LRTV Custom TV
F5 Virtual Network Function Integrations With Partner Orchestration Platform

8|24|16   |   6:38   |   (0) comments


F5's Kishore Patnam, product manager for F5's service provider solutions, discusses why service providers are moving towards virtualization and how his clients are utilizing F5's solutions.
Between the CEOs
CEO Chat: Intel's Alexis Black Bjorlin

8|17|16   |   06:23   |   (0) comments


Join us for an in-depth interview between Steve Saunders of Light Reading and Alexis Black Bjorlin of Intel as they discuss the release of the company's Silicon Photonics platform, its performance, long-term prospects, customer expectations and much more.
Telecom Innovators Video Showcase
Accelerating Telecom Digital Transformation With Nominum DNS

8|1|16   |   12:04   |   (0) comments


Light Reading's Steve Saunders gets an update from Nominum CEO Gary Messiana on how his company is helping carriers on the digital transformation journey.
LRTV Custom TV
Reinventing Operations for a Virtual, Software-Defined World

7|28|16   |   5:23   |   (0) comments


Heavy Reading Senior Analyst Jim Hodges speaks with Accenture's Larry Socher and Matt Anderson about what service providers must do to transform their business to get the benefits of SDN and NFV including: leveraging DevOps, introducing real-time OSS and implementing analytics.
Upcoming Live Events
November 3, 2016, The Montcalm Marble Arch, London
November 30, 2016, The Westin Times Square, New York City
December 1, 2016, The Westin Times Square, New York, NY
December 6-8, 2016, The Westin Excelsior, Rome
May 16-17, 2017, Austin Convention Center, Austin, TX
All Upcoming Live Events
Infographics
Hot Topics
Keeping Your Tech Career Going After 50
Mitch Wagner, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading, 9/21/2016
Time to Shut Up About 'Dumb Pipes'
Mitch Wagner, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading, 9/22/2016
Comcast Will Go Wireless in 2017
Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, 9/20/2016
Sprint CEO: We'll Lease Spectrum as Soon as Possible
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 9/20/2016
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
Light Reading CEO Steve Saunders and UXP Systems CEO Gemini Waghmare discuss the strategic importance of digital identity for operators in the midst of transformation.
Join us for an in-depth interview between Steve Saunders of Light Reading and Alexis Black Bjorlin of Intel as they discuss the release of the company's Silicon Photonics platform, its performance, long-term prospects, customer expectations and much more.
Animals with Phones
You Thought Your Customer Service Was Unreliable... Click Here
Live Digital Audio

A vital part of increasing the number of women in comms is transforming the ways companies can support and empower women. While progressive company policies that support both men and women in achieving work-life balance are a step in the right direction, creating a company culture that supports those policies can at times be more challenging.

During this show, we'll talk to Lynn Comp, Senior Director of Industry and Sales Enabling (ISE) in the Network Platforms Group at Intel, about why those challenges exist and how companies can overcome them. She'll provide insight into how Intel has worked to create a culture that supports work-life balance, and provide steps and guidance for other companies wishing to do the same. We will also leave plenty of time to get your questions answered live on the air.