Cable services will transition over time to cloud-based infrastructure
Aamir Hussain, Managing Director and CTO of pan-European cableco Liberty Global, on the work needed to prepare for major new gateway product Horizon (launched at IBC last September), and the extra revenue possibilities that IP delivery brings to cable networks.
Can you tell us more about the work needed to prepare Liberty Global’s European networks for Horizon?
The key work it needed was based on a cross-collaborative effort and included the foundation investment in DOCSIS 3.0 infrastructure, investment in home networking capabilities, and Horizon’s platform capabilities to support search, recommendations and personalisation. This was all underpinned by support for cloud infrastructure to rapidly deliver Horizon services to additional markets.
What are the biggest revenue possibilities that IP brings to cable networks?
These will certainly include support for and revenues derived from the growing market for Web applications, IP devices and mobile devices. For example, the number of mobile devices worldwide is projected to grow to 50 billion devices worldwide by 2020: to put that in perspective, there are about 5 billion mobile devices today, in a world of about 7 billion people.
Interview with Leandro Boschelle, Director of Strategy and Business Development at Cablecom, an affiliate of UPC and owned by Liberty Global
What developments have you witnessed in the IP cable industry in the past 12 months?
Clearly I see two major developments: an increased proliferation in the number of video-capable devices in general, all connected wirelessly and highly used within the home environment; and TV sets gaining more IP capabilities and accordingly more integrated applications.
By integration I mean primarily the ability to turn the TV into a display of all types of video content, ranging from traditional linear TV to Web-originated video streams and applications.
What impact is the move to IP cable having on your business?
The impact is an increased focus from the product development teams on converged services. Convergence in the sense of consuming content and applications everywhere and seamlessly across devices, from TV to iPads, iPhones and other more.
Does the move to IP cable place an operator on an equal technological footing as, for example, an IPTV rival?
I would go so far as to say that we are about to leapfrog our IPTV competition. The investments most cable operators are making in upgrading networks to DOCSIS 3.0 will provide them with a competitive advantage over the next five years. Cable is best placed to offer customers the necessary network capacity to use converged services in conjunction with HD video quality ubiquitously in the footprint. Here in Switzerland, our broadband connections start where DSL ends in terms of speed. Fibre-to-the Home penetration is still too low to be commercially significant for our rivals.
Delivering on the Promise of an Any Screen World
A variety of trends are driving service providers to consider advanced content delivery architectures that promise to ease the challenges of reaching new devices, improve system scalability, lower operational costs, and speed the launch of innovative services. The goal is to become more competitive in the video services marketplace; a market which is highly dynamic and features a host of emerging competitors. The consumer driven and technology trends that entice companies to enter the video services market also present opportunities for traditional service providers to increase their revenues and expand their subscriber base.
These trends include:
An Explosion in the Number of Video Capable Devices
Worldwide shipments of internet connected consumer electronics devices, a category including connected TV, video game consoles, Blu-ray players, and IP set-top boxes, will surge to 503.6 million units in 2013, up from 161 million in 2010. With projected shipments of tablet computers reaching 66.9 million units in 2011, an increase of more than 260 percent from the prior year, an unprecedented number of people now can access video services on-the-go. This enables consumers to extend the amount of time they spend watching video programming and provides operators with the opportunity to promote new revenue generating services to consumers.
The Demand for and Availability of Growing VOD Content
With revenue from DVD sales sliding approximately 40 percent from its peak and box office figures down 20 percent in 2011, content studios are looking at alternate ways to boost revenue. Studios have begun to release more content to VOD service providers to off-set declining revenues in other parts of their business. In addition, the success of services like Netflix and Amazon demonstrate that consumers will pay for increased content variety, generating interest in archived content libraries. In sum, storage expansion represents a challenge that will stress legacy VOD server architectures and present opportunities for tiered storage and content delivery networks.
Starting from the year 2005 Comarch has been delivering software for Field Service Optimization. For a few years now, Cable and Satellite service providers, after their transformation in BSS, are looking more carefully at Field Service trying to improve their performance and build customer experience strategy that involves field staff. Outsourcing field operations allows to make savings in that area but costs are still a problem and quality would need much improvement. Cable operators, while implementing a new strategy for their field force, must consider several aspects of their business and the available technology opportunities.
Is Cable FS unique?
Generally, Cable field services are organized in the same way as many other service providers. Significant differences may be found in details. But those detailed differences should be addressed to preparing proper solution supporting dispatchers and techs in their daily tasks. Below are presented important aspects in building a service strategy for Cable operators:
- Outsourced resources – Installations are executed mainly by fulfillment partners. This means that warranty and agreement execution rules have to be applied
- Signal level – Measurement is the first element of an on-site visit, it determines what is possible on the customer’s site
- Provisioning – pre-activated equipment doesn’t work in real life. After installation the equipment has to be activated before the order is completed
- Damage Claims – one of the most popular registered customer support tickets – better to have tools to deal with this kind of issues
- Service Quality- carrying out audits of outsourced companies or executed work orders is one of the ways of keeping it on the right level
- Spare Parts – The first reason for why work orders are not in accordance to SLA parameters
- Customer Appointments – an element in building a competitive advantage of a Cable service company on a demanding market
Who is right – automate, technician or dispatcher
In the process of implementing field service automation tools, especially when optimization is applied, specific cooperation between techs, dispatchers and automation tool has to be worked out. An optimization tool has to be tuned during the first stage of deployment. But, to do this properly, dispatchers and managers have to wait for the first result of automation usage. It depends on what goals are set in the system, but normally about after 2 weeks of using the automation tool it is required to change the old schemes in the company and see the first results. After that all dispatcher complaints have to be considered in order to tune the system. The same applies to techs. In the pilot stage they have to be very patient and try to apply new process of order fulfillment without trying to improve it on their own. There will be time for that in the next iteration of the system’s configuration. An optimal process of field service delivery and supporting tools is shown below. This process may be automated in some stages – optimization goals are the domain of strategy building and tuning during the pilot stage.
Sustainability and cost cutting goals
Just after customer satisfaction – the main reason why to implement a FFO solution is achieving goals related to savings in the field services area. Savings in mileage or vehicle utilization is also consistent with sustainability goals in the MSO strategy.
Ziggo has reported strong EBITDA growth, despite a summer low on marketing
Subscriptions to the operator’s All-in-1 bundle increased by 20,000 on the quarter and 148,000 year-on-year, representing an annual growth of 12.1%. After easing off the All-in-1 campaign during the summer, new marketing activities began in September with a focus on the fourth quarter.
“As marketing activities during the summer period tend to be less effective, we reduced our efforts during the third quarter and started an All-in-1 bundle campaign in September with an emphasis on the fourth quarter,” explained Ziggo CEO Bernard Dijkhuizen. “At the same time, we saw an increase in competition which, in combination with lower marketing efforts, has resulted in a more moderate growth of our All-in-1 bundle subscriptions.”
The success has taken Ziggo into the black at €72.4 million from a net loss of €1.3 million in Q3 2011.
Cable Europe welcomes the European Commission’s interest on “Connected TV”
Connected TV is already a reality for many consumers using cable television and other platforms. With modern television sets and other devices now becoming increasingly connected to the internet, more offers are made available to consumers. This drives innovation and viewers’ habits and expectations are changing at a rapid pace as they consume content in an increasing number of ways.
More choice for consumers means that power is shifting from distribution platforms to content owners. Preserving competition between platforms and across distribution and content services is critical to the future of Connected TV services. In this context, a key aspect will be to ensure that platform providers will be able to continue negotiating content rights as appropriate.
Furthermore, it is vital that Connected TV is not reduced to one technology or standard. There are many technologies at play to create a reliable and user friendly platform for end users. Cable operators always make strategic financial and technology decisions when investing in advanced TV platforms. These investments are made in order to provide end users with the best consumer experience allowing Cable operators to compete in this changing environment.
Dutch cableco latest to expand WLan density by opening up home access points, working with ALU
As broadband providers look to add wireless to their services by investing in Wi-Fi, many are exploring the idea of turning their customers’ home access points into public hotspots, which in turn can expanded wireless coverage and offload capacity for mobile partners. FON pioneered similar ideas, working with telcos like British Telecom, and Free has used the tactic to disruptive effect in France. The latest to take this route is Dutch cableco Ziggo, which also recently acquired LTE spectrum, signalling a step towards a quad play offering in future.
The operator has kicked off a commercial trial in the city of Groningen, working with Alcatel-Lucent’s lightRadio Wi-Fi equipment, unveiled earlier this year as part of the vendor’s small cell architecture. The partners say this is the largest community trial of cable-based hotspots in Europe to date. Ziggo subscribers will be able to access one another’s home Wi-Fi connections with a simple login rather than complex authentication passwords, without damaging the hotspot owner’s security or network performance, says ALU.
The trial will be opened up to 18,000 homes in November, making it the largest and densest public WLan in the Netherlands. Ziggo customers must give permission for their home routers to be opened up, and if they do, they also get access to those of other participants. This differs from some systems, such as FON, where those supporting open access received free or discounted services.
European Forum for Spectrum Coexistence launches first White Paper on spectrum policy
As Commissioner Neelie Kroes made important announcements in Brussels at the 7th Annual European Spectrum Management Conference, Cable Europe, as a member of the European Forum for Spectrum Coexistence (EFSC), launches a white paper on spectrum, Coexistence: The Missing Element in Current Spectrum Policy.
The European Forum for Spectrum Coexistence supports the European Commission’s objectives shared by Member States to harmonize conditions regarding the availability and efficient use of the radio spectrum in the EU. This represents an important component of the wider policy initiative called the “Digital Agenda” and the first Radio Spectrum Policy Programme which was launched by Commissioner Kroes to deliver sustainable economic, social and cultural benefits from Europe’s digital single market. But without coexistence among all components of the electromagnetic ecosystem as a key tenet written into EU rules and regulations, which impact Member States and their citizens, these worthy policy objectives will struggle to become reality.
Matthias Kurth Connects with Cable Europe
Former German Telecom Regulator
Brings Extraordinary Overview to Sector’s Expanding Role
in Increasingly Competitive European Market Space
(Brussels, 22 October) Cable Europe announces today the arrival of Matthias Kurth who is joining its team as Executive Chairman. Mr. Kurth will sit on Cable Europe’s Executive Committee which has oversight of the cable industry’s main representational duties in Europe. Matthias lastly held the position of President of the German Federal Network Agency, Bundesnetzagentur (BNetzA), the authority for telecommunications, postal, energy and railway markets in Germany, including frequency management and digital signature. He played an instrumental role in the liberalization of the German energy market and left behind notable achievements with respect to competition in the telecommunications market. Matthias also served as Chairman of the European Regulators Group (ERG) in 2009 to increase regulatory cooperation at the EU level.
“It is a true testimony to the growing maturity of our organization that an executive of Matthias’ caliber has agreed to join forces with us. His unique experience and high level insight will be invaluable for our growing sector,” comments Cable Europe President, Manuel Kohnstamm.
“Matthias brings extraordinary oversight of our sector given his experience in helping to drive Germany’s broadband take-up, running Europe’s first spectrum auctions for mobile broadband and serving as the Chair of the European Regulators Group at a time of crucial regulatory reform in European telecoms.”
Keeps full-year guidance
AMSTERDAM–Dutch cable company Ziggo NV Friday said it returned to a net profit in the third quarter and maintained its guidance for the full 2012.
- Net profit was EUR72.4 million, from a EUR1.3 million net loss in the same period a year earlier.
- Revenue rose 1.2% to EUR380.1 million, compared to a year earlier.
- Adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, amortization and depreciation, or Ebitda, were up 8.1% on the year to EUR227 million.
Ziggo said it is on track to continue to increase its market share and grow revenues. Excluding telephony usage, where it expects a continuation of the downward trend, Ziggo expects revenue from its core business to develop in line with its plans for the full year 2012. In view of the market environment that has become more competitive over the summer period, subscriber acquisition costs are expected to increase. Based on the above expectations Ziggo said it is confident to meet the current EBITDA consensus for the full year 2012.
Capital expenditure for 2012 is expected to be in the range of EUR270 to EUR280 million, slightly below our previous guidance of approximately EUR280 million.
Ziggo shares closed at EUR26.89 Thursday.
By Amsterdam Bureau