Platform competition, “most effective way of driving progress”

(Brussels, 8 March) Europe will play a leading role in the world’s connected future, according to a panel of experts gathered for a special policy session at Cable Congress in Brussels.

“If you look ahead to the 2020-30 timeframe, we see the EU as a major player in new technologies that will see a transformation of this sector and enable innovative companies, whether they are content or service providers, to be a winner without a vast stock of IP,” said Robert Madelin, Director General, DG INFSO.

Madelin’s comments came amid a lively exchange that covered a number of important policy issues that affect the cable industry. On the subject of the future of state aid, George Serentschy, Chair, Berec, told delegates that he thought platform competition was the most effective way of speeding roll out of next generation networks and increasing take-up rates. Serentschy also mentioned that he did not believe pushing down copper prices would lead to faster roll out of NGA. “I’m very skeptical of linking industrial policy with costing methodologies. We should be very clear that these two things are not interlinked and I don’t believe that costing calculations are good and viable tools to make industrial policy.”

Serentschy also argued for regulators to shift focus to ensure that both supply and demand sides are working effectively. Matthias Kurth, former President of Bundesnetzagentur, meanwhile commented: “I’m not against state aid if the case is solid but it must be given out in a transparent way and must not distort competition.”

Policymakers’ vision for Europe to become an innovation leader chimed with new research issued today by IHS Screen Digest on the role cable is playing in driving innovative new services in Europe. Heralding an acceleration in digital revenues, including a rise of 7% in average revenue per user for triple-play services, Guy Bisson, Research Director, IHS Screen Digest said: “After a decade of growth driven by telephony and broadband, cable is coming full circle back towards its core business of television: we will increasingly next generation bundles, featuring multi-screen packages and other value added services becoming the major driver in the coming years and cable is in the lead here.”

The connected TV is also expected to keep regulators busy in 2012, especially in the fields of copyright, the implications of which were described as “huge” by Madelin. On network neutrality, Daniel Danker, General Manager, Programmes and On Demand, BBC told delegates: “The open internet issue is not about advantaging the big guys but about not disadvantaging the little guys. The BBC may be able to influence ISPs but startups can’t, and they need protection.”

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