Liberty Media rolling up more Euro cable
Given the aggression with which UnitedGlobalCom (owned by Liberty) European unit UPC is pushing VoIP, it is interesting to see Liberty take control of Callahan's 14% equity stake (21% voting rights) in Telenet, Belgium's leading cable player and one of Europe's most technically advanced MSOs (http://www.telenet.be/nl/bezoekers.php). Coming on the heels of the Noos acquisition in France, Liberty is further consolidating its position as the major pan-European cable player, and it will be interesting to see what the next technical/product developments are for Telenet, as well as what strategy/product cross-pollenation occur inside UPC as a result.
It is my understanding that the Belgian cablecos have thus far been leaders among a small group of European MSOs to indicate an interest in the Ultrawideband-over-coax technology on offer from Pulse_LINK (offering 1.2Gbps capacity boost per node on 750MHz systems, and 600Mbps on 450MHz systems, with enhanced upstream speeds which make the E1/E3 markets addressable for cablecos, at an upgrade cost of less than $100 per sub http://www.pulse-link.net/pr-aug10-2004.html). So far most interest has come from Japanese and Korean MSOs, where the threat from fiber is much more pronounced and immediate. So it is with Belgium as well (incumbent Belgacom begins IP TV trials next month, is rolling VDSL, and check out this list of blown fiber contracts from Emtelle http://www.emtelle.com/?id=308).
Next door in the Netherlands, KPN CEO Ad Scheepbouwer has recently been making noises about FTTH to Bloomberg journalists, and UPC Netherlands has announced trials of 30Mbps and 50Mbps access technologies with unnamed vendors (my understanding is that there are two involved, but I have been unable to find out who they are). As commentators in the US decry the state of competition following the FCC's RBOC fiber ruling, my guess is that cable in Europe does not roll over and die in the face of fiber competition from the PTTs, and in some markets may well beat the telcos to the home with HDTV offerings and higher access speeds plus VoIP.