Gigabit Cities

Vodafone Sets High Speeds, 4K for Germany

Unveiling its German broadband and video upgrade strategy, Vodafone intends to double Kabel Deutschland's maximum broadband speeds to 200 Mbit/s later this fall and introduce Ultra HD set-top boxes for IPTV customers next year.

In an announcement late last week, Kabel Deutschland GmbH , which is now part of the Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD) empire, said it will begin rolling out the higher broadband speeds in several markets in November. (See Euronews: Vodafone Strikes €7.7B Kabel Deal.)

Plans call for extending the faster service to 1.8 million cable households by the end of March and nearly 3 million by June. Along with the 200Mbit/s maximum downstream speed, Kabel Deutschland will offer upstream speeds as high as 12 Mbit/s.

With the planned speed hikes, Kabel Deutschland, Germany's largest MSO with more than 8.4 million homes served, will surge well past its arch rival, Deutsche Telekom AG (NYSE: DT), just as the incumbent pushes ahead with its latest fixed broadband upgrade. Deutsche Telekom, which boasts more than 12.3 million DSL customers, has already invested heavily to offer VDSL capabilities to more than 16 million German households, and at the end of June had nearly 1.5 million customers connected to VDSL or FTTH connections. Now the telco is rolling out vectoring capabilities to 3.5 million homes by the end of this year, a move that will boost the downstream speeds of its VDSL-enabled access lines to up to 100 Mbit/s, the speed currently on offer from Kabel Deutschland and other German cable operators. (See Fiber Revival at Deutsche Telekom and Vectoring: Some Va-Va-Voom for VDSL.)

"With our technology mix, we're paving the way for Germany to become a gigabit society," said Jens Schilte-Bockum, Vofafone's German head, in prepared remarks at the IFA consumer electronics fair in Berlin. "Cable is clearly the key to the fixed-line part of that."

The move follows a successful trial run of the 200Mbit/s service that Kabel Deutschland launched in Mainz last December. The MSO plans to charge about €60 a month (about US$77.70) for the new service, €20 ($25.90) more than it now charges for its current maximum 100Mbit/s speeds.

For ongoing updates on Gigabit Cities and the broadband speed race, visit Light Reading's broadband/FTTx content channel.

Vodafone, which completed the €7.7 billion ($10.1 billion) acquisition of Kabel Deutschland in October 2013, also announced plans to introduce a new set-top box that supports Ultra HD, or 4K, video in the first half of 2015. The company said the advanced 4K set-top, developed in tandem with technology vendors Broadcom Corp. (Nasdaq: BRCM), Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) and Sagemcom SAS , will serve as the cornerstone for all new cable and IPTV receivers deployed by Kabel Deutschland and Vodafone.

Featuring Cisco's Videoscape MediaHighway middleware and Videoscape VideoGuard encryption system, the new 4K set-top will initially be made available just to Vodafone's German IPTV customers. But the company said Ultra HD content and reception devices will also be offered to Kabel Deutschland customers in time.

— Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading

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