Liberty Global remains committed to CEE despite the region being far less lucrative financially than the West European markets it is present in.
Take Romania, where UPC is increasing the reach of its fixed network by up to 300,000 homes each year and on track to eventually cover half of the country’s total. In the Czech Republic and Slovakia, UPC ended last year with its network’s services being available to just over 2 million homes, or 105,700 more than a year earlier, while in Poland UPC extended its reach by 185,000 homes to 3.2 million.
The latter figure represented 20% of the country’s total and it will grow to 30% once the proposed acquisition of Multimedia Polska, currently being examined by the competition authority UOKiK, is confirmed, probably later this year.
However, as UPC Polska’s head Frans-Willem de Kloet has pointed out, the Polish cable market remains highly fragmented, being served by over 400 operators. This compares to three in the Czech Republic and only one in the UK.
What is more, even following this expansion UPC will still be at a disadvantage compared to the incumbent telco Orange, which has 100% coverage of Poland.
Taking its CEE operations as a whole – UPC is also present in Hungary – Liberty aims to eventually reach a minimum of 40% of households across the region. While this may look like an ambitious target, it is arguably necessary in order to give the company greater scale in what are increasingly competitive markets.
UPC has already rolled out Horizon in CEE and begun to introduce Replay TV. Its internet access services are among the fastest offered in the region, with individual Polish subscribers, for instance, likely to have the choice of download speeds of up to 500Mbps by the end of the year.
Despite the many changes we are likely to see in the coming months, CEE will undoubtedly remain an important market for Liberty Global.