Vodafone expanding telco TV; 1Gbps key theme at cable event

The Cable Next Gen Europe event in London this week featured a star-studded line up of speakers from tier 1 operators and key technology vendors. Successes and mistakes in building and offering a 1Gbps broadband service was a central topic of discussion at the conference, arriving at a perfect time with our sister service Rethink TV on the cusp of publishing a report on this exact topic, the latest in a series of monthly technology forecasts.

Soon there will be a surge of service providers offering managed WiFi services due to the proliferation of WiFi-connected devices per household, with many now exceeding 20, was one conclusion drawn by a panel including Nordic operators Get and Stofa, alongside Huawei and mesh WiFi experts AirTies and Plume.

Despite now offering 1Gbps downstream across 50% of its network footprint, Norwegian cableco Get, part of TDC, says there remains little demand for symmetrical 1Gbps services, hardly a surprising conclusion but interestingly Get plans to begin offering a triple play bundle next year including 1Gbps broadband, TV and phone. The company’s head of broadband, Frode Elverum, conceded that many ISPs are using the term 1Gbps as a marketing instrument and regularly failing to deliver promised speeds.

There is a tendency for operators to blame legacy WiFi devices for dragging down broadband speeds inside the home, yet WiFi responsibility ultimately comes down to the ISP. If an ISP wants every home in its footprint to have 1Gbps speeds over WiFi, then get investing in the latest 802.11ax technology on offer, start offering multiple discounted APs to subscribers, start implementing mesh technologies, start something.

But before internet service providers can benefit from added services like managed WiFi, they must start living up to promises, with complaints regarding below advertised speeds reportedly on the rise. Of course, WiFi takes most of the blame and the growing number of legacy WiFi devices in the field is hindering development. Danish cableco Stofa highlighted the difficulties of delivering 1Gbps WiFi speeds in MDUs compared to a standard house, where large numbers of legacy devices mean next generation WiFi technologies cannot operate at their maximum potential. Stofa also said around half of its reach is now capable of 1Gbps connectivity.

Consumer unawareness is another factor, as suggested by AirTies at the London event, but also concluded that the final responsibility lands in the lap of the operator, not its vendor suppliers nor the consumption practices of its subscribers. The vendor’s EVP and GM of EMEA and APAC, Ian Challinor, naturally highlighted the multi-AP strategy with mesh network technologies as a way of improving legacy device coverage.

Plume echoed a similar sentiment, saying there are no current user applications out there requiring 1 Gbps speeds, but that allowing an operator to understand what is happening inside its subscriber footprint and on the network itself, as well as giving subscribers themselves the tools to monitor the in-home network, are all crucial to overcoming coverage issues.

British telco Vodafone was in fine voice at Cable Next Gen Europe, elaborating on its cloud TV strategy which has come to prominence this year. Vodafone is now planning to shift every one of its products over to its cloud platform in the coming years – with the aim of offering a “single product.” Presumably it means a triple play package of TV, broadband and mobile.

Winning new customers on this new platform is number one priority right now, according to group head of fixed development, Nuno Sanches, while migrating customers from basic to advanced offerings is the second on the to-do list.

People have begun describing Vodafone’s cloud TV platform as the world’s largest and soon Vodafone plans to expand beyond its five-country cloud TV base to greenfield markets, claiming it can launch a full cloud TV service in seven months.

Vodafone is single handedly orchestrating a significant technological transformation. Not too long ago, Vodafone was known as an operator with a profoundly fragmented footprint, especially regarding video technologies, arising from a combination of acquisitions and a sense of indecision to settle on a single set of technologies. Now the telco is talking about de-fragmenting its market footprint, enabling it to offer a single product centered around cloud TV.

Nunes admitted the demise of the set top will be a natural part of the operator’s transition, although he refused to say hardware will go away entirely. Eventually deciding on a common platform running on common hardware is the ultimate aim, having almost entirely ditched hard drives for a cloud-based DVR strategy across its footprint. “OTT plus pay TV equals cloud TV,” has become Sanches’ catchphrase.