Cable Tech

Liberty Global: No need to alter network upgrade plans in the face of COVID-19

CABLE NEXT-GEN EUROPE DIGITAL SYMPOSIUM – Don't expect Liberty Global to make any wholesale changes to its network upgrade plans in the wake of residential traffic spikes that emerged during the early phases of the pandemic – and might stick around for the longer term.

However, Liberty Global might consider making some minor changes or tweaking its upgrade plans on a targeted, case-by-case basis should portions of the network see higher than normal congestion occurring in the upstream, Bill Warga, VP of technology at Liberty Global, said Tuesday during a virtual fireside chat with Alan Breznick, Light Reading's cable/video practice leader.

"But it's mostly business-as-usual for us with scalable upgrades that we do on a yearly basis and the capex that we put into that," Warga said.

Like other cable operators in the US and in Europe, Liberty Global did see a surge in residential traffic – highlighted by a sharp increase in the upstream – during the early stages of the pandemic followed by a flattened out period. Meanwhile, peak network usage hours on Liberty Global's networks have shifted away from prime time to the middle of the day, with demand tapering off earlier in the evening than what it saw before the pandemic.

"The impact on the network has not been extreme at all," Warga said, noting that ongoing plant upgrades has ensured that the operator's networks were not overwhelmed. "The networks have held up – that means they're not running full-tilt, redlining. There's plenty of headroom that we've seen on the downstream and upstream side."

As for lessons learned, Warga said Liberty Global, an operator with about 28,000 employees across Europe, quickly discovered it was capable of virtualizing its operations practically overnight. Additionally, Liberty Global's operations in various regions in Europe quickly were able to develop and share new sets of best practices that were discovered during the pandemic.

"The big silver lining we saw was how quickly our workforce adapted to a virtual environment," Warga said.

He also expects working at home or remotely to be more of the norm moving forward for many of Liberty Global's people.

"Obviously, virtualization is here to stay," he said, expecting operations to evolve into a hybrid model that continues to lean heavily on working from home and remotely along with still-critical in-person, face-to-face interactivity. "I think there's going to be a balance."

Light Reading will provide more coverage of the Cable Next-Gen Europe Digital Symposium through the week. Day two of the online event gets underway Thursday, June 11 at 2 p.m. British Summer Time. Registration information is available here.

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— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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