Liberty Global Inc. (Nasdaq: LBTY) envisions a nearly limitless scope for its budding Horizon multi-screen video service, including a massive network of free WiFi hotspots for mobile service throughout Europe.
Peter Dorr, managing director of strategic marketing, sales, and care for Liberty Global, expounded on that vision in a keynote speech at CTAM Europe's EuroSummit conference in Barcelona last week, Broadband TV News reported. He said MSO strategists aim to take Horizon beyond the home in the near future.
For starters, Liberty Global will soon introduce a (presumably IP) video box to go with the hybrid QAM/IP video gateway that the cable operator has been installing in Horizon homes in several European markets. The WiFi-enabled box will be able to stream linear TV channels, DVR, VOD, and home content to any TV and room in the house. "It will extend Horizon beyond the living room."
Further, Liberty Global is looking at developing nationwide networks or even a continent-wide network of free WiFi hotspots for Horizon customers to use for mobile service. The UPC Broadband unit is testing free WiFi hotspots in the Netherlands and using its home routers to create the hotspots.
Dorr noted that Ziggo B.V. already operates more than 1 million hotspots, and he suggested that the two large cable operators link their wireless broadband networks to serve cable subscribers better. "All of a sudden, we have a free WiFi network for all cable customers." Such a network could offer "unlimited wireless Internet at many locations with a one-off authentication."
By the same token, the various nationwide WiFi networks could be joined together into a continentwide network of free hotspots for cable subscribers. "At the next level, we can do it for other countries."
Liberty Global officials have learned much from the first year of the Horizon multi-screen service, which is now in 300,000 cable homes in the Netherlands, Switzerland, Ireland, and Germany. Customers have complained about too many clicks for navigating between screens, a lack of shortcut buttons, and a domineering user interface, among other things. As a result, Liberty has downloaded a software upgrade to the initial Horizon gateways. It has also sent a quicker remote control to most customers. "It would be naïve to think you can launch a product of this technical complexity without any bugs."
— Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading