With an announcement today at Cable Congress 2014 in Amsterdam, Liberty Global said it is joining Comcast and Time Warner Cable as a strategic member of RDK Management LLC.
Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) and Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC), the top two US cable operators, formed the RDK joint venture last summer as a way to guide development of the Comcast-created Reference Design Kit (RDK) for all-IP and hybrid IP/QAM set-top boxes and gateways. The addition of Liberty Global Inc. (Nasdaq: LBTY) to the joint venture management team signals a stronger commitment to expanding RDK's presence in European markets, where the MSO is predominant. Previously, Liberty Global had been one of several MSOs licensing and testing the software stack.
The RDK management group is responsible for overseeing licensing of the pre-integrated software bundle, as well as RDK support, training, and code management. In its new role with the organization, Liberty Global released a statement saying it will provide "technical, financial, and management oversight resources to support the joint venture." The MSO did not disclose the size of the stake that it's taking in the venture. (See All the Way With RDK?)
"Liberty Global was an early proponent of the RDK, and today we're taking a strategic stake in the JV because of the clear technical advantages it provides to us and the industry at large," said Balan Nair, EVP and CTO of Liberty Global. "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."
Indeed, as a licensee, Liberty Global has been testing the RDK platform in its next-generation Horizon IP video gateways since at least last fall. The large international MSO has has relied on the software stack to support a new cloud-based guide for the Horizon gateways. At the SCTE Cable-Tec Expo conference in October, Bill Warga, Liberty Global's vice president of technology, noted of his company's early tests: "We saw incredibly good results... We were pleasantly surprised."
According to Broadband TV News, Liberty Global will begin rolling out its new cloud-based guide commercially in the next 30 to 45 days. Bloomberg said the guide will be deployed in new Horizon markets, not the four nations where the MSO has already introduced the gateways. Liberty Global has now deployed more than 500,000 Horizon gateways in Germany, Ireland, Switzerland, and the Netherlands.
So far, the RDK pre-integrated software bundle has been licensed by more than 120 companies, including service providers, hardware manufacturers, software companies, chipset developers, and system integrators. But, among its MSO backers, only Comcast has rolled out RDK-enabled boxes extensively so far, integrating the software into its X1 and X2 IP video gateways. Time Warner Cable plans to follow suit later this year.
— Mari Silbey, special to Light Reading