Altice USA shuts out Android TV with RDK gateway roll out

Altice USA management has its finger on the trigger ready to fire out a new range of gateways powered by RDK, slamming the gates on Android TV operator tier’s chances of arriving at a tier 1 US cableco, while also building a strong base for RDK in broadband environments from the foundations we saw at Anga Com earlier this year.

To follow up the first GPON gateway with RDK going live at Altice SFR in France, Altice Labs – the R&D division of the cable giant – plans to unveil a suite of new RDK-powered broadband gateways at next week’s Broadband World Forum.

Altice Labs’ new gateway portfolio will cover DOCSIS 3.0, DOCSIS 3.1, GPON (gigabit passive optical network) and XGS-PON, yet the release doesn’t specify which of these three gateway technologies Altice will roll out in the US and which will arrive in Europe. Its DOCSIS 3.1 and GPON gateways will both support WiFi 6, while Altice Labs plan to include the latest WiFi standard on XGS-PON gateways in the coming months.

Altice USA is an interesting case, seemingly coming full circle on its DOCSIS commitments. The operator uses the Arris E6000 Converged Edge Router for broadband homes, which looked to give Altice USA a clear path to DOCSIS 3.1 and gigabit speeds, until late December 2016 when it decided to skip investments in DOCSIS 3.1 and deter focus to FTTP upgrades in a five-year project coined Generation Gigaspeed.

It says that it can leverage cutting-edge and proprietary technologies developed by Altice Labs, to get there cheaper and faster. What it may mean is that Altice will take a leaf from the book of AT&T and Verizon, which expects to make the last 1 Gbps hop by wireless to the home, but that effort would top out at 2 Gbps to 3 Gbps, and not take it all the way to 10 Gbps.

Altice uses GPON and NG-PON2 (next generation PON) at its Portugal Telecom subsidiary, but as far as we know that uses all standardized off the shelf equipment. Verizon is the only company in the US that is already experimenting with NG-PON2, which can push all the way up to 40 Gbps.

On the WiFi side of the coin for Comcast-backed RDK technology, there was a recent decision from Tukey’s AirTies to port its WiFi mesh software onto the RDK platform, as a result strengthening its status as the leading hardware-independent provider of WiFi mesh technology, while reaffirming RDK’s entrenched position among tier 1 cable TV operators.

Larger MSOs still prefer RDK over Android TV Operator Tier because that keeps them free from any dependence on Google while having the resources to integrate the services they want anyway. Yet there is a smidgen of scope for harmony. An RDK representative told Faultline earlier this year that there is no reason why RDK and Android TV could not reside together within an operator’s ecosystem, with RDK plying its trade in broadband gateways for standardization of functions within the connected home, leaving Android TV to sweep up all things video. This is a very simplistic way of looking at things and despite the battle lines being drawn in the sand against Google gradually fading in the US, there remains an element of resistance at the big boys.

We have observed how most cable companies in North America, including Canada, have looked unlikely to go down the Android TV operator tier route, highlighting Altice USA as one potential exception, as other cable firms have all signed up to use Comcast’s Xfinity technology built around RDK. That presumption may well be over but we look to the telcos to potentially break ranks, with favorite to do this being Bell Canada, which currently uses Mediaroom (MediaKind) middleware already certified to work with Android TV devices.