Light Reading

Huawei Signs Up for Comcast's RDK

Jeff Baumgartner
LR Cable News Analysis
Jeff Baumgartner

China's Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. is among a growing group of vendors to secure licenses for Comcast Corp.'s Reference Design Kit (RDK) for hybrid QAM/IP and IP-only set-tops and gateways, Light Reading Cable has learned.

The license is merely a point of entry. It doesn't guarantee that Huawei will land any of Comcast's set-top business, or the set-top business of any other cable operator that ends up adopting the RDK.

In the U.S., Time Warner Cable Inc. is expected to deploy products based on the RDK. Other service provider licensees include Liberty Global Inc., BSkyB Ltd. and Rogers Communications Inc., according to an industry source, though it's still unclear if those operators are simply evaluating the RDK or have more in mind. Liberty Global is already heavily invested in Horizon, an IP-capable video platform that isn't based on the RDK but uses the NDS (now Cisco Systems Inc.) software stack. (See Liberty Embarks on New TV Horizon.)

Comcast's RDK stack includes the CableLabs reference implementation for tru2way middleware, a Java Virtual Machine and several community-sourced elements such as Gstreamer (a media management/playback framework) and Nokia Corp.'s Qt windowing framework. The RDK also supports optional, proprietary elements, including Adobe Systems Inc.'s Flash engine and the Microsoft Corp. PlayReady digital rights management (DRM).

Comcast is using RDK-based products in X1, a next-gen video platform that uses a cloud-based user interface and has already been launched in five markets. The initial X1 product features the Pace plc-made XG1 DVR/server and the RNG150N, a client box that also supports the new UI and can access recorded content from the XG1 via the home's Multimedia over Coax Alliance (MoCA) network. (See Comcast's X1 Gets a Multi-Room Partner.)

Comcast and its vendor partners have also developed "headless" XG5 gateways that will work in tandem with IP-only clients (called Xi3), tablets, smart TVs and possibly game consoles and other connected consumer electronics devices. (See Comcast's All-Service Gateways Go 'Headless'.)

Huawei's U.S. challenge
It's not yet known which RDK product area Huawei will concentrate on, but the company has been eager to win some set-top business with U.S. MSOs, even as it and ZTE Corp. face allegations by the U.S. government that they pose a national security risk. (See US vs. Huawei/ZTE: The Verdict and Can Huawei Change?)

But much of that scrutiny has been centered on Huawei's network gear. It might face an easier climb with set-top and other consumer premises equipment (CPE). Suddenlink Communications, for example, has deployed Huawei-made Digital Terminal Adapters (DTAs) – small "channel-zappers" that convert digital video signals to analog for older TVs -- as well as some of the vendor's optical gear. (See Huawei DTAs Break In at Suddenlink.)

Comcast and Huawei have not commented on their relationship involving the RDK.

Last fall, when the House Intelligence Committee issued its report on Huawei and ZTE, Comcast issued this statement: "We work with many vendors, including Huawei, whose role is limited. We work with multiple vendors to foster innovation and competition, and we regularly evaluate current and potential vendors. Ensuring the security of our network and our customers' information has always been and continues to be our top priority."

Huawei is just one of dozens of vendors that have signed RDK licenses. Others include: Broadcom Corp., Motorola Mobility LLC., Entropic Communications Inc., Evolution Digital LLC, Intel Corp., Humax Co. Ltd. and Cisco. (See Comcast's Set-Top Accelerator Gains Traction.)

Light Reading Cable will publish a more extensive list of RDK licensees soon.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

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Jeff Baumgartner
Jeff Baumgartner,
User Rank: Light Beer
1/11/2013 | 2:47:21 PM
re: Huawei Signs Up for Comcast's RDK
yes, the list if very big... several CPE guys, software guys, and a bunch of integrators, along with some service providers.-á More work needs to be done on this by me, but the way i hear it, there's the general RDK and then some special licenses on top of it that are involved if you want to do work with Comcast directly.... still, the RDK license is a requisite step, and not all that hard to get, though I'm not sure (yet)-ánow much $$ are involved. JB
User Rank: Blogger
1/11/2013 | 3:01:04 AM
re: Huawei Signs Up for Comcast's RDK
Maybe the question should be: Who isn't going to jump on the RDK bandwagon? If you want to be any part of cable's STB or gateway future, it seems like you've got to at least kick the RDK tires.
Jeff Baumgartner
Jeff Baumgartner,
User Rank: Light Beer
1/10/2013 | 1:10:43 PM
re: Huawei Signs Up for Comcast's RDK
Still working up an updated list of companies that have signed the RDK.... and there are a bunch. Taking some time because it includes most of the usual suspects, plus plenty of integration/services companies that want to help CPE guys make RDK products. And it's the latter that's taking some time... not exactly the kind of companies that tend to be on my radar a lot. But it does speak to the size of the uniform'ish ecoystem that Comcast's trying to develop so the industry doesn't end up with another fragmented mess like it did with the first shot at tru2way (although the tru2way RI is part of the RDK, so there is that)> JB
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