Europe’s cable industry is a resilient beast and more than a match for the many challenges life throws at it.
That, at least, was the message it tried to convey at this week’s Cable Congress in Lucerne, Switzerland. Economic crisis? We’re recession proof and have come through the last couple of years with flying colours. OTT? It’s not really much of a threat, more an opportunity.
Although the Central and East European ‘chapter’ of the industry was barely touched upon at the Congress – it has to be hoped the region will one day again gets the opportunity to host the event, having only done so on two previous occasions, in Prague and Budapest several years ago – it was mentioned in dispatches on several occasions.
In a press conference prior to the official launch, a Romanian journalist posed a question to the panellists about the cable market in his country.
While unlikely to be told that Liberty Global plans to exit the market or buy up RCS/RDS or Romtelecom sometime soon, he was probably expecting to hear a little more than it is “very competitive”, not only in cable but DTH.
IHS Screen Digest, on the other hand, did provide a number of interesting facts and figures about the cable market in CEE.
While the news that ARPU levels in the region are at the same level as those in Western Europe in 1996 came as something of a disappointment, it was to a large degree balanced out by also being told that RGU levels are now very similar, with some countries in fact set to reach Western European levels in a handful of years.
Although cable in CEE still has some way to go in terms of consolidation, it shares the same hopes and concerns as its counterpart in Western Europe. As DOCSIS 3.0 is now as much a reality in Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic as it is in The Netherlands, Switzerland and Austria, everyone could celebrate the news that Cablecom had achieved to 1.37 Gbps in a trial in Zurich earlier in the week. One day in the not too distant future subscribers throughout the continent will be offered such internet access speeds.
CEE cable can also look forward to launch of the UPC Horizon box, which will undoubtedly revolutionise the market and – like its Western counterpart – is justified to view the appearance of OTT services with a mixture of excitement and apprehensive.
Earlier this month saw the launch of a new cable body at the CSTB market in Moscow. Although representing mostly CIS countries, it also includes Poland’s PIKE, which is a member of Cable Europe.
PIKE will now undoubtedly play a key role in establishing close cooperation between the two.