Cable Europe Touts 100-Mbit/s Offers
European broadband users looking for truly fast services can increasingly turn to their cable operators as well as to the continent's growing band of fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) players to satisfy their needs, according to industry lobby group European Cable Communications Association .
The trade association, better known as Cable Europe, says the region's cable players are making "significant progress in the rollout of super-fast internet services of more than 100Mbit/s," and identifies Numericable-SFR in France and Belgium, UPC Broadband in the Netherlands, and Welho in Finland as operators already offering such super-fast services.
To match that downstream speed in Europe, users would need an FTTH connection, but fiber access rollout is proceeding slowly: Even by the end of this year the region will have fewer than 2 million fiber access users, though that number is set to climb to 19 million by the end of 2012. (See Swedes Top Euro FTTH Ranking and Report: EMEA Set for FTTH Surge.)
By contrast, many of the DSL services around Europe offer peak downstream speeds of 16 Mbit/s or less, while the most advanced services, such as the VDSL2-based offering from Deutsche Telekom AG (NYSE: DT), achieve little more than 30 Mbit/s downstream in the field.
In France, where broadband and triple-play competition is fierce, Numéricable is offering its 100 Mbit/s downstream service (no upstream speed information is published) for €19.90, including unlimited national voice calls. A triple-play package that includes 120 TV channels costs €29.90 (US$38), in line with prices from DSL-based rivals like Orange (NYSE: FTE), Iliad (Euronext: ILD) (under its Free brand), and SFR (which now owns Neuf Cegetel). (See Iliad Gains Again, Euro Telcos Ramp Up IPTV Subs, Neuf Kicks On With FTTH Plan, and SFR to Swallow Neuf in $6.4B Deal.)
In the Netherlands, one of the European markets likely to see rapid FTTH rollout in the coming years, UPC has launched its Fiber Power service in several markets, offering 120 Mbit/s downstream and 60 Mbit/s upstream for €80 per month ($101.65). (See Liberty Takes 120 Mbit/s to the Dutch and Dutch Hold Back on FTTH Frenzy.)
UPC announced in September that it plans to "begin the commercial introduction of similar advanced internet products in Switzerland and Austria before the end of this year, and in most if not all of our European markets by the end of 2009.”
The other European markets where UPC currently offers cable broadband services are Ireland, Hungary, Romania, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Slovenia.
In Finland, Welho charges €44.90 ($63.41) per month for its 100 Mbit/s downstream and 10 Mbit/s upstream service that's available in the Helsinki area, which includes a basic package of TV services and some voice services.
Elsewhere in Europe, Spain's ONO , which already offers a 50 Mbit/s service, is set to launch its 100 Mbit/s service at any time (it was originally due in October), while the U.K.'s Virgin Media Inc. (Nasdaq: VMED) is set to launch its 50 Mbit/s service before the end of 2008. (See ONO! Another Docsis 3.0 Story! and Virgin Media Weighs CDN Options.)
Cable Europe, which claims that European cable operators invest about €4 billion ($5.1 billion) in their networks each year, is keen to point out how its members, which provide service to about 73 million households around the continent, provide infrastructure-based competition to the telcos.
But it is clearly concerned that, as national telecom operators face increasing regulatory pressures to open up their next-generation networks (NGNs) to their rivals, cable operators might also come under pressure to provide competitive access to their networks, something they have not yet had to do.
In a statement released this week, the trade body noted: "The association has called on EU [European Union] telecommunications ministers to ensure that fully independent networks can compete fairly against national telecoms operators and alternative telecom providers. The Council of Ministers has been urged to maintain the existing light touch regulation of the cable industry, and to reconsider proposals including changing access arrangements to cable infrastructure that could prove anti-competitive."
It added: "As an industry cable demonstrates the benefits of efficient infrastructure competition. True competition should never be solely reliant on regulated access to networks."
— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading