CSI Magazine – September 19, 2018
Pan-European cable operator Liberty Global has unveiled its next-generation TV entertainment platform, Horizon 4. The new Horizon 4 suite of products includes a superfast set-top box with 4K Ultra HD picture quality, a remote-control with voice capabilities and an upgraded version of the operator’s ‘GO’ mobile app, which works together with the set-top box to deliver a seamless viewing experience.
The platform will be introduced over the coming months to selected customers in The Netherlands, Switzerland and Belgium, with a wider rollout in these and other Liberty Global markets to follow.
The new, modern-design Horizon 4 set-top box has already been introduced as the ‘V6 box’ in the UK, where nearly 2 million customers are now using it in combination with TiVo software. The new platform to be rolled out in the coming months combines this set-top box with the new Horizon 4 user interface instead, which includes enhanced features, the cablenet said.
Liberty Global first introduced its Horizon TV platform back in 2012 in The Netherlands. Since then, the Horizon next-gen TV products have been introduced in a total of seven European markets.
The Horizon 4 software powering the new 4K set-top box was developed using the Reference Design Kit, making this the first RDK-enabled STB to be introduced by Liberty Global, which was quick to point out the benefits of using RDK. One major improvement compared with previous set-top box platforms is that Horizon 4 will see updates being made every few weeks. In addition, the release cycle will allow a faster rollout of software fixes and improvements, largely thanks to RDK software.
The hardware and user interfaces of the Horizon 4 product suite were developed in-house by teams based at Liberty Global’s tech campus in Schiphol-Rijk in The Netherlands, together with various teams in other countries and with external partners across Europe. According to the company, before launching Horizon 4, it tested the platform in over 10,000 customer homes in various different countries.
According to tech analyst Paolo Pescatore, this is a “huge step in the right direction with all the latest tech features that users will desire.” More importantly, it represents a significant move towards the end of the set-top-box with the integration of cloud based features, he says.
Other notable features include apps such as Netflix and YouTube in up to 4K Ultra HD picture quality; cloud storage of recordings; web videos and online TV channels; and one easy-to-use user interface.
The Go app allows customers to watch content on-the-go, be it linear TV, replay or on-demand, whenever and wherever they want. Also enables is ‘download to go’ functionality, while viewers can continue watching the same programme on a different device. Finally, the mobile app can also be used to control the set-top box or use ‘push to TV’ functionality to watch content on the big screen after searching for it with the app.
“Now, Liberty Global and its entities will need to recoup the cost by successfully deploying this new box in the market. And this is no easy feat given that the group and some of its companies are struggling to get users to sign up to more services. Therefore, expect the company to focus on subscriber retention,” Pescatore adds.
Enrique Rodriguez, Liberty Global’s EVP and new Chief Technology Officer, commented: “Horizon 4 brings our customers the best user experience from Liberty Global’s ‘one platform’ strategy. Our teams develop a common set of products and services which are then rolled out across our local operating companies. This allows us to achieve significant scale and operating synergies. The launch of this latest instalment of our next-gen digital TV platform marks an important step in our journey of bringing great innovation in connected entertainment.”
RDK Management is an open source consortium that manages the Reference Design Kit (RDK). RDK is an open source software platform for the connected home that standardizes core functions used in broadband devices, set-top boxes, and IoT. It enables operators to manage their devices; control their business models; and customize their apps, UIs and data analytics to improve the customer experience and drive business results. The RDK community is comprised of more than 350 companies including: CPE manufacturers, SoC vendors, software developers, system integrators, and service providers. For more information on the tools, training, and events provided by RDK Management, please visit: www.rdkcentral.com.
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