Join us this week as we chat with Ashwani Saigal, VP fr Broadband PU at Technicolor Connected Home about…
📺 His involvement in creating the original RDK-B stack
📺 What RDK-B is, in its simplest form
📺 What RDK-B could become in the future
Hello, and welcome to the RDK podcast. I’m your host, Jamie Walker. And today I’m joined by Ashwani Saigal, the Vice President of Broadband PU at Technicolor. Pleasure to have you here with us Ashwani! How you doing today?
Good to be here, Jamie, nice to be here looking forward to this podcast.
Definitely it’s definitely one I’ve been excited for. So let’s jump right into it. For anybody who isn’t aware, could you tell us a little bit about what Technicolor do and your role within the business?
Sure, so Technicolor is the worldwide leader in broadband CPE market, we have number one market share in the world. And we serve our customers throughout the world including all the tier one tier twos in all the geographies. And myself, I am leading the broadband product management and Strategy Team in technicolour where my responsibility includes defining and executing on a roadmap for all our broadband customers worldwide.
Wow. So a big remit right within the business. But your journey within rdk. It started in 2010. So we’re gonna rewind the years back, how did you get involved in such a project?
Sure. So I’ll take you back down the memory lane, like you mentioned. So back in 2010, I was part of the Cisco team of defining the CPS for service provider market. This was before the technical or acquired the Cisco CW in 2015. So back in 2010, we were working with teams in Cisco to define a routing stack for CPE. Broadband CPS that were based basically on three key tenants Jamie, one of the tenants was us already what you have, right. So in that regard, we work and scouted the market and saw that the Linux distribution already provided a foundation of a routing stack, which was available to the market.
So we decided on leveraging the open source of Linux distribution as the basis of the stack. And then what we did the second tenant was us what enhance what you have got already to address the market that you are going into. So the Linux distribution was open source, but it was not hardened, and was not robust enough for service provider market. So the CCSP team, the CCSP stands for common client software platform, which is the foundation of RDK, was enhanced by having innovative design improvements like debuggers, in having data models like TR181, so we could address the needs of the service providers, which were very different from the retail and open Linux Foundation requirements.
And then the third tenant is basically developed once and you reuse it multiple times, right? So we architected CCSP in such a way that the software architecture could be used on multiple products, multiple SOC vendors, including single core Dual Core Quad Core platforms, so that once we develop this stack, we can reuse across the board. So that’s how the CCSP got founded in 2010, Jamie, and we worked on for years on hardening that stack and adding requirements for service providers, and back and then in 2014, when we were working very closely with Comcast, and RDK and we got an opportunity to open source the CCSP stack for the betterment of the community, and had this available to be further developed and further adopted in the world.
Wow. So I guess my question to you on that right – 2010 to 2014 was probably a lot of blood, sweat and tears, right? A lot of trial and error. What was your most enjoyable part of the R&D phase?
I think the most enjoyable part of this phase was to see the product in this case. CCSP, a wall in from something that was addressing a market in isolation, and then having the whole feature set and whole robustness to address the service provider market, which had a very different and more, I would say, robust requirements to be addressed. Right. So that was for me was the most gratifying part of the see the stack mature and be deployed in a product in the field in service provider before we open source. So on a side note to that ccsp was first deployed in the field in Comcast networks back in 2014 2015, before we started making this the foundation of RDK.
Okay, okay, so I guess that Ashwani for somebody, like yourself has been involved with RDK since the start, if you were to simplify RDK-B to somebody who perhaps is only just learning the ropes, or indeed knew nothing about it at all, how would you explain it to the average day to day person?
Okay, so I think the way I would go about explaining RDK-B is think of RDK-B as a middleware, which abstracts your hardware and your functionality of the box to an abstract in such a way that it’s the common glue that now provides a service which is ubiquitous to all the users of that device. Yeah. So think of it as I will give an analogy of smartphones, right.
So as you know, in smartphones today, even though they are phones, we use the smartphone for everything else except calling, right so calling and texting, and I’m from the generation I used to still have the dial up phones at home, but my kids, they’re rarely called right. But we still call them smartphones. So what the smartphone industry has done is they have and there are two major camps, as you’re very well aware, the Android camp and the Apple iOS camp. Right. So they they have abstracted the hardware, which is the phone which has the camera, which has the speaker which has the microphone, and they have adapted, they have abstracted with the layer called either Android or iOS where people can then develop applications, right? We are very well familiar of online banking, Facebook, social networking. So that platform is now open through either Apple store or Android store for people to develop applications and run it on those platforms.
So think of RDK B as doing a similar, providing a similar avenue for the broadband subscribers and broadband operators. Because today, as you know, Jamie, the speed and the bandwidth that the operators are providing are becoming table stakes, right, there was a time when even hundreds of megabits of speed and bandwidth were considered quite, I would say impressive. Today, we are going to gig speeds and 10 gig speeds. So the speeds is table stakes. Now what differentiates one service from the other is the user experience and the additional value added services that the operators can put on their devices to generate additional ARPU to have stickiness with the customer. And this is where RDK B plays a key role because it standardises the interface for both the low level API’s and the high level API’s. So we abstract the hardware. But we provide a platform for the value to be added on these gateways.
That’s it, and it’s this platform, right that’s integrated into all of these different devices, right? But I’m going to move away from RDK a little bit and talk about you, so you transitioned over from Cisco to Technicolor in 2015 – tell us about your leadership role evolution and how you’ve got to where you are today.
So just a little history, when technicolour acquired the Cisco’s CW division, Cisco CW division was very strong in the cable infrastructure. And this is where our interaction with RDK and Comcast first blossomed right. And when the two teams came together, technicolour, had a strong presence in the telco world where it was based more on the copper fibre as well as some 4G, 5G technologies, right. So when we brought the teams together, one thing that we quickly realised that the broadband space was fast the moving towards a more I would say access agnostic landscape where people were more interested like I mentioned in speed and bandwidth as table stakes then user experience right. So irrespective of how the people are getting their broadband, whether they’re getting on cable where DOCSIS, whether they’re getting on copper with DSL, whether they’re getting through wireless with 4G.
So when the two teams came together, I got to see the other aspect of the broadband business and started to think how we can leverage what we have done with RDK be on the cable side and extend that to the other markets of broadband CPS. And in that I was responsible for a telco product unit back in 2018 2019. So two years, I was leading the telco product unit along with the global CPE cable unit. So we could have synergies across the architectures and across the, our offerings to the operators, so they can have a consistent user experience across their multiple networks.
Wow, wow. So quite a journey for yourself. Right? Not Alone in just RDK. But also the transition over from Technicolor to where you are today. And that probably leads on to our next question, right where Technicolor have been leading the RDK-B deployment for quite some time. You’ve recently announced that you have made over 20 million deployments worldwide, which is which is huge. How have you been able to continue at such a rapid growth?
Right. So yeah, thanks for the acknowledgement, yes, there was a big milestone for both us and RDK management to have 20 million units and counting. So we are not stopping here, Jamie, we are going to continue on this path. And I think one thing we have realised that if you have a good like I started with the three tenants at the beginning of the podcast, I think we have quickly realised that if you get behind an open software platform like RDK, if you continue to harden, continue to make contributions back to the community continue to upstream your contributions, the product collectively gets better, right. So as it has evolved from 2014, early days now to 2021. The RDKB today looks very different for the RDK was in 2014, even though it has the same foundation, same architecture, but it is far more enhanced. It has capabilities, like I mentioned to support multi access technologies, it has capability to support IoT is like devices like cameras and security at home. So RDK has evolved. So what we are seeing is that the adoption rate of RDK, RDK in the market is also accelerating. And that for us getting behind RDK as our default stack for all our broadband gateways is helping us secure the market share. And we just want to continue to see that growth.
That’s it, and I’ve mentioned it before, but innovation is the core being behind the acceleration of RDK. Right? And having that platform to innovate for everybody to take apart and add to it… 20 million deployments are soon going to be 30, 40, 50. Right? And it’s it’s been an exciting 11 year journey. But where we are today, I’d be very intrigued to know where either yourself Technicolor or just RDK B in general, we’ll be in a few years time. Can you give us your proposal on that?
I think what will I see if I have a crystal ball? I think what I see happening is RDK-B getting adoption in more and more technologies and operators. I’ll give you an example like Till now I mentioned the telco and the cable when the acquisition first happened. We are quickly seeing that the lines between a telco operator and cable operator are blurring right they are becoming broadband operators and more specifically, they are becoming a user experience operators, right. So I always give an analogy when I try to explain to my kids or my wife who are not in the technical field, that they are not very interested how the pipe comes into the home, right as long as the broadband Pipe comes into the home, which is reliable pipe. And then the pipe is distributed in the home in such a way which is seamless to the user. They don’t really care how long it’s coming right.
So what I see is that as the broadband operators tap into new technologies, like 5G. 5G is a new technology which is currently being used mostly for the handset market. But we see that on the horizon as an alternative, a viable alternative to wireline technologies of fibre and DOCSIS. So when 5G is going to become a technology for people to get internet at home, they would like to have same kind of user experience, whether it’s talking to their gateway, having voice, file field voice interaction, having a smart Wi Fi, which adapts to the people’s use cases in the home, and especially for the last year.
But we have seen challenging here with COVID, Jamie, where more and more people working from home, doing remote learning doing remote work, as we are having this call today, we see a need for these operators to provide a service and user experience which is van agnostic. And also not only just the applications that we know today of video conferencing, browsing gaming, but also for the applications that we haven’t thought of before, which is on the horizon, including AR, VR, and other technologies that are on the horizon. So I’m expecting that RDK is a platform that continues to evolve. And we continue to have innovations from folks like ourselves and that community of RDK to keep enhancing this to support all these newer technologies. So people at home have this experience that they can say, Aha, I’m getting this experience without any need of understanding the technology and more importantly for the operators, right? Like one of the tenants elements develop once used multiple times, right? So if folks have decided or have invested in RDK-B today, suppose for a wireline technology like DOCSIS or fibre, right, in tomorrow, one of those technologies then suddenly have a wireless technology like 5G has a better ROI, right?
So some operators say okay, now I want to switch my customers to a 5G gateway, right. They don’t want to redo or reinvent the wheel that they have done for cable and fibre. So they would like to reuse majority of the work on RDK platform from those van technologies into a 5G. Right, so then then RDK becomes a de facto platform for 5G devices at home. That’s an example. So I see, you know, 11 year journey has been very exciting. And we have been gaining quite a lot of ground. But I see much more future adoption and market share gains going forward, Jamie for RDK-B.
Absolutely. I fully agree with you and I think sat in my position I’m very excited to see Technicolor’s journey, but also your journey with the growth of this as well. And I’m sure when we have another episode in the future, we’ll be talking about those advancements that you have made. But Ashwani it’s been an absolute pleasure discovering more about you and your involvement with RDK just for our listeners, where can they find you online?
You can go to https://technicolor.com and you will find all the contact information there for reaching Technicolor. And I thank you for your time, Jamie.
No problem Ashwani, It’s been a pleasure.