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Charter Might Paint Its Home Gateways & Devices 'Prpl'

Jeff Baumgartner
2/7/2019
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Can RDK-B and Prpl coexist?
But the rub is that Prpl and RDK-B are architecturally different. RDK-B uses a D-Bus messaging system and Prpl uses U-Bus. So that creates a significant technology challenge for service providers and device makers, as they are loathe to reinvent the wheel from a test and integration perspective.

So, fundamentally they are two different stacks. But since there's a distinct possibility that some operators will use both, there is interest in establishing a level of coexistence that might allow for a D-Bus-to-U-bus conversion at some level, or some type of common service layer.

Such liaison efforts are happening, and some device makers and service providers Light Reading spoke to welcome those activities, but there's still no telling if both camps might come together and hash something out.

"Both organizations have similar goals," says a source familiar with those talks. "They aren't competitive, but they have different starting points. There's lots of discussion and some talk about aligning technically."

Though Prpl and RDK-B have technical differences, no one has called them directly competitive. It's possible that device makers and service providers could end up supporting both. And there are efforts under way to establish some technology bridges that can foster a level of coexistence between them.

Swift acknowledged that the Prpl Foundation is eager to find "points of commonality" between Prpl, OpenWrt and RDK-B.

"We see it as a complementary effort or an opportunity for collaboration," Swift said, adding that the Prpl Foundation has had a "a great deal of outreach" with RDK. "They fully understand what our strategy is -- to find common APIs and to try to define a common interface layer that would allow people to use either and to migrate between OpenWrt and RDK fairly easily."

Swift said a number of additional "very large carriers" are in the process of joining the Prpl Foundation, but didn't identify them. "It's about to get bigger," he said of the organization.

RDK Management LLC , meanwhile, was non-committal about any plans involving Prpl and didn't comment on any individual activities that its members might have underway. "RDK appreciates and supports all open source projects," the JV said in a statement. "We leave it to the operators to announce their plans."

Broadband service providers are, of course, eager to separate the hardware and the existing software stacks to make it easier for them to create and launch value-added services, such as whole-home WiFi, smart home management services and IoT security. They'd rather focus on new revenue-driving services they can offer rather than apply resources to the technology plumbing.

"This is big money for them," Swift said.

Of recent note, Comcast, a champion of RDK-B, has been focused on xFi, its WiFi home management system, and recently introduced a security offering called xFi Advanced Security that's being sold for $5.99 per month. (See Comcast Uses AI to Clamp Down on Cyber Threats .)

Charter, meanwhile, recently teamed with Cujo AI for an in-home network security service that's set to deploy this year, so it makes sense that the company would want to establish more commonality in the software it's using in its in-home devices. As Light Reading reported last month, Charter is also pursuing a larger smart home initiative. (See Charter Picks Cujo AI as In-Home Network Security Partner and Charter in Talks With Ring, Others, About New Smart Home Product.)

— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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