Geneva’s Naxoo is a small cable operator that is punching above its weight, writes Julian Clover.
Serving 150,000 households in and around Geneva, Naxoo still manages to be the second largest operator in Switzerland, and is able to tower over some of the city-based networks that number in the region of 250.
The 235-channel line-up compares favourably with other operators, and it is arguably one of the largest selections available anywhere in Europe, helped along by the wide variety of languages spoken in the international city.
The operator has an old-fashioned ownership structure to it, being owned 51.2% by the City of Geneva, the remainder being held by UPC’s Swiss affiliate Cablecom. Its corporate name is 022 Te?le?gene?ve SA, the customer-facing brand used until 2004.
Regulation is a natural cause for concern, there does not appear to be a national switchover strategy and currently just four DTT channels are available, hardly a reason to rush out and buy a DTT set-top. A bigger threat is posed by the launch of DTT services from across the French border. Naxoo is considering the offer of a DVB-T modulated package to its subscribers, which it believes would also help promote its larger digital package, which already has 43,700 subscribers.
Despite the presence of UPC, Naxoo is very much its own company, making its own technology decisions that will lead to the launch of VOD services some time during 2010. My visit had been arranged by ADB, also based in Geneva, which commenced supply of a PVR product in 2006. More recently it has added high definition receivers.
There is no triple play for the multi-lingual team of customer service agents to offer, but VOIP is on the way in partnership with UPC.
The cablenet admits that its size means that it is unlikely to be first to market, but the competiveness of the Swiss market, where Swisscom’s Bluewin service is arguably the greatest current threat, creates a need for Naxoo to at least be a first follower.
The ADB box dispenses with any need for middleware, instead relying on ADB’s own inbuilt software, which if the demo is anything to go by does everything that might be required. The device handles all the trick modes, conflict management rules, SI and EPG processing itself.
You can argue the need for middleware from both sides. Naxoo seems perfectly capable of living without it, and the receivers are far from the zapper boxes that populate some smaller cable systems in Europe, and often found in Central and East Europe. The speed of channel change also shows it is far from being held back.