Comcast Uses RDKs to Revive STBs, Heavy Reading Finds

Set-top box love is dying, but Comcast is using its new RDK to reignite operator interest, says Heavy Reading Cable Industry Insider

Mar 14, 2013

BOSTON, March 14, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Operators are keen on killing set-top boxes (STBs), but Comcast believes it can cut STB development time by more than half and provide a new line of IP devices that offer new services, applications and user experiences with its new Reference Design Kit (RDK), giving STBs new life, according to the latest report from Heavy Reading Cable Industry Insider (, a subscription research service from Heavy Reading (

Are Set-Tops Dead? Comcast Offers Its RDK Remedy explains RDK, the market drivers and its implications for cable operators and suppliers. Included is a look at announced RDK products by 11 suppliers.

For a list of companies covered in this report,

"Industry observers have been predicting the death of the set-top for some time," notes Craig Leddy, research analyst with Heavy Reading Cable Industry Insider and author of the report. "As cable embraces the cloud and broadband-connected retail devices, the thinking goes, why does it need to maintain its reliance on STBs in the home."

Now Comcast is leading an industry-wide effort to transform STBs into IP-fueled devices, speed their entry into the market and provide an open platform for service innovation, Leddy explains. "The Comcast RDK prescribes the latest system-on-a-chip microprocessor technology coupled with a stack of the latest open-source middleware," he says. "If the cable industry is going to truly embrace innovation, it must embrace open standards and a more collaborative development cycle. RDK may create a pattern for the industry to follow in other areas, one that will keep cable on the cutting edge."

Key findings of Are Set-tops Dead? Comcast Offers Its RDK Remedy include the following:

  • Comcast has developed an RDK software stack to support new IP-fueled set-tops and whole-home gateways.
  • RDK promises to provide an SoC-rooted open-source development platform that will speed new devices to market and promote service innovation.
  • RDK's reliance on a royalty-free open-source license and a shared development community is unprecedented in cable.
  • Time Warner Cable and Charter have voiced support, but wide MSO adoption remains to be seen.
  • More than 50 suppliers have obtained the free RDK license. Several major suppliers have made initial RDK implementations.
  • RDK could have policy implications as it plays a role in breaking the STB duopoly.

Are Set-tops Dead? Comcast Offers Its RDK Remedy is available as part of an annual subscription (six issues) to Heavy Reading Cable Industry Insider, priced at $1,595. Individual reports are available for $900.

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About Heavy Reading (
Heavy Reading is an independent research organization offering deep analysis of emerging telecom trends to network operators, technology suppliers, and investors. Its product portfolio includes in-depth reports that address critical next-generation technology and service issues, market trackers that focus on the telecom industry's most critical technology sectors, exclusive worldwide surveys of network operator decision-makers that identify future purchasing and deployment plans, and a rich array of custom and consulting services that give clients the market intelligence needed to compete successfully in the global telecom industry. As a division of UBM Tech (, Heavy Reading contributes to the only integrated business information platform serving the global communications industry.

SOURCE Heavy Reading