What’s in Store for RDK

This past year proved to be a pivotal one for the Reference Design Kit (RDK). In 2014, video providers of all sizes across the globe began trialing and implementing the RDK, a pre-integrated software bundle that provides a common framework powering customer-premises equipment from TV service providers and enables operators to innovate and differentiate at the application and services layer with the speed and agility of the Internet.

Further, the growing RDK community now has real-time access to the latest source code trunk, as well as access to the new Advanced Support Program. That program includes such development tools as the RDK Emulator, the Test Development Kit (TDK) and Development STBs. And lastly, the RDK has evolved into a global platform that includes DVB components required for European operators.

Next year looks to be an equally exciting year for the RDK, where we will leverage the foundation established in 2014 to drive scale and innovation. Accordingly, we expect to see progress in the following six areas:
1. Scale of installations expanding and operators realizing RDK benefits
2. Continued growth in the size of the RDK community
3. RDK integrators providing RDK solutions
4. New application and user interface development on top of the RDK
5. Development of additional localization components for global operators
6. An RDK solution solidified for broadband devices

1. RDK will spread and deliver big benefits
Today there are more than 5 million set-top box builds based on RDK software in the US alone. With the latest inclusion of Digital Video Broadcasting (DVB) components into the RDK, implementations have begun in Europe and should expand to other countries and continents using the DVB solution in 2015. There is also some exciting development work going on to localize the RDK for other country requirements, such as in South America and Asia.

Feedback from operators implementing the RDK has been extremely positive, with the RDK giving them the ability to deploy new services and product updates at web speed. RDK-based CPE devices bring immediate benefits that will transform the way that operators do business, from product delivery to new service introduction to enabling collaboration between technology vendors. We're at the tip of the iceberg and next year we'll get more insight into what benefits and impacts the RDK brings at scale.

2. RDK community will continue to grow
It's only been a year and half since the RDK was officially launched, and our RDK community has doubled to over 200 companies, including operators, STB manufacturers, modem/router manufactures, SOCs vendors, software developers and system integrators. We expect this vibrant community to continue to expand globally and to include new operators and technology integrators, as well as new categories of members such as application developers.

3. RDK integrators providing RDK solutions
More than 20 operators around the world are direct licensees of the RDK, but its reach is far broader. The RDK program is set up so that operators can either license the software directly or receive the software through a third party, such as a set-top box supplier or software vendor. Many operators like the RDK transparency concept of having access to the source code and believe that the RDK is well positioned to be a foundational element for the industry moving forward.

System integrators are now offering RDK solutions too. An operator can still get all the benefits of deploying the RDK by selecting an RDK integrator to manage the code (much like choosing a systems integrator today) and then, if desired, the operator can bring the code management in house at the operator's schedule. That's the beauty of the transparency and flexibility of the RDK. All parties have access to the source code and can easily make this type of transition at their schedule.

Want to know more about the development of RDK? Check out our dedicated RDK content channel here on Light Reading.

4. The RDK will continue to enable new apps and user experience innovation
The RDK provides a common interface to SoCs, acting like a "universal SoC adapter," which enables the operator to focus and innovate at the revenue-generating services layer. Applications and the user experience are controlled by the operator, because they run on top of the RDK. This enables vendors and operators to continue to differentiate themselves. We expect to see more companies -- including ActiveVideo , Espial Group Inc. and Metrological -- helping operators to build revenue-generating components, such as app frameworks and user interfaces in 2015. The RDK enables operators to offer web-style, interactive and immersive user experiences that customers now expect from their video provider.

5. More localization components to support global operators
Last summer we announced that the RDK now includes key components for the DVB standard, which is widely used throughout Europe and other parts of the world. The RDK now includes DVB-specific components such as teletext and subtitles, and is finalizing the inclusion of the DVB system information component in early 2015. One of the basic principles of the RDK is an open collaboration process, so as operators continue to implement the RDK, working groups will continue to collaborate on new common components required to support operators globally.

6. Strong demand for an RDK broadband device solution
Broadband devices, similar to STBs, have historically lacked a baseline of commonality and standardization that could be enhanced by an RDK-like structure. The operator and vendor communities have rallied behind the RDK-for-broadband idea and are now developing code that will be available to the RDK community in the not too distant future. So far, the software solution is very promising, with some operators planning field trials to gain real-world feedback in order to harden the solution. Once it's hardened, the teams will finalize test suites and other key components required to make the broadband solution available to the community; a process which is very similar to the RDK solution for STBs. Expect to hear more about this development in 2015. (See Comcast Plans RDK-for-Broadband Gateway Trials in Q4.)

The RDK's progress has been notable since RDK Management LLC was formed a little over a year ago. The support from Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), Liberty Global Inc. (Nasdaq: LBTY) and Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC) is a testament to its potential impact for the broader RDK community. In the short time that the RDK code has been available to the broader community, operators implementing the RDK have given us very positive feedback. The agility that the RDK brings is helping operators to deliver new modern user interfaces, provide advanced applications, make efficient feature upgrades at web speed, and obtain real usage data that validates an increase in VoD usage, increased video transactions and a decrease in churn.

We still have a lot of work in front of us in 2015, but we see the RDK as a key driver to help the industry become a more nimble provider of video and broadband services well into the future. To find out more about the RDK community and how to get involved, be sure to check out www.rdkcentral.com.

— Steve Heeb, President and General Manager, RDK Management, LLC

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