LAS VEGAS -- As it pursues laying all-fiber lines to customers' homes, Altice USA is counting on the installation of souped-up boxes inside those homes to carry the day.
The US unit of Altice is prepping to install its new breed of "home entertainment center hubs" in millions of subscriber homes throughout its footprint, starting later this spring. The company plans to blanket the regions of its Cablevision Systems and Suddenlink properties with these video and broadband gateways, which will combine the functions of cable set-tops, modems and wireless routers in one powerful device equipped with 1 Gig of bandwidth.
Speaking at the NAB Show here on Tuesday afternoon, Altice USA Chairman and CEO Dexter Goei predicted that the home entertainment hubs "will drive less clutter and more efficient power use" in subscriber homes while also delivering a better customer experience. A bit taller than standard cable set-tops, the hubs will sit in a centralized place in the home, supporting a network of smaller "slave" boxes near each TV set.
Altice Labs, based in Portugal, developed the hubs for the international MSO, which also operates cable systems in France, Israel and Portugal. Goei said Sagemcom SAS , a French equipment vendor, is manufacturing the initial set of boxes for Altice, with Arris Group Inc. (Nasdaq: ARRS) joining them as a supplier somewhere down the line.
Goei, the first cable CEO in recent memory to address the NAB Show, said Altice is going the FTTH route in the US, France and Portugal over the next few years because of the ever-growing customer demand for and usage of data. With those trends showing no signs of abating, he said Altice executives decided it made sense to invest heavily in fiber lines now rather than drag out the inevitable upgrades to FTTH networks. (See Altice USA Sticks to High-Fiber Diet.)
"Fiber today remains the most robust, efficient and reliable technology," he said. "For us, to invest in little steps to eventually get to all-fiber makes no sense."
Addressing a wide range of subjects during the fireside chat session, Goei pooh-poohed the threat of OTT video skinny bundle services like Sling TV, DirecTV Now and YouTube TV taking away much of cable's traditional pay-TV business. He said these virtual MVPs (multichannel video programming distributors) "don't offer more compelling products" than traditional pay-TV providers, at least not yet.
But Goei noted that "we would be putting our heads in the sand if we were not paying attention" to the rise of the OTT video market in general and skinny bundles in particular. He indicated that Altice will explore more ways to integrate OTT video services into its pay-TV offerings and possibly roll out its own skinny bundle services, as fellow large US MSOs Comcast and Charter have already done.
Asked about Altice's desire to expand its US presence beyond its current 8-million-home footprint, Goei said the MSO is "very focused on our existing operations." He noted, though, that the proceeds from the US unit's current IPO offering will come in quite handy should the company pursue more acquisitions. (See Altice's US Arm Files for IPO.)
"At the end of the day, we think this market is going to be dynamic," he said. "I think it'll be interesting no matter what."
— Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading