Comparing and contrasting cable in Europe and North America suggests that cable’s world is getting smaller. A quick look at the program for next week’s ANGA show in Cologne, Germany, turns up nothing startling, and that’s the point.

Items of interest to the European cable community – triple play, HDTV, IPTV, VOD, next generation networks, and so on – sound much like current fare at American cable gatherings. Even trend lines largely coincide.

Trends

Major European cable trends include movement toward DOCSIS 3.0 and IP solutions, along with a dynamic competitive landscape.

"The hottest trend in the European cable market is certainly DOCSIS 3.0 rollout," said Alex Goloschokin, a director of business development for the JDSU Communications Test and Measurement segment. "There is fierce competition with telcos and FTTX technologies for data speeds, and DOCSIS 3.0 will allow cable operators to pull ahead by being able to offer download speeds of up to 160 Mbps."

Mixed Signals CEO Eric Conley said: "One obvious trend is the migration to IP-based architectures in order to deliver more advanced video and other broadband services."

VOD is also accelerating in Europe, said Sarah Hackforth, VP EMEA and Asia Pacific for RGB Networks. "European operators are responding to fierce competition by rolling out more VOD and with dramatically faster cable modem speeds of 50 Mbps and higher."

And then there’s plain old "Business 101."

"Operators do realize that there are areas (in which) to invest to improve subscribers’ total experience, from a quality, type of service and operator’s responsiveness perspective," said Claudio Cerioli, SVP sales, EMEA, for ARRIS. "Offer, pricing and service … the latter being a new factor of differentiation."

Growing apart, together

The European and North American cable markets are growing both apart and together, depending on the particular item. It’s largely a matter of following different paths toward similar goals.

"Both markets are growing together with new HD PVRs including MPEG-4 on both sides of the pond and (Euro)DOCSIS 3.0 being launched pretty much at the same time (now)," said Sumit Kumar, VP corporate strategy for Vecima. "In terms of penetration and market share against the competition from satellite operators and telcos, European cable MSOs are still behind compared to North American MSOs, but striving to gain market share."

Mixed Signals’ Conley said both regions have similar goals – IP-based architectures to deliver more personalized and differentiated services – but are taking different routes to reach them.

"European operators don’t have the same bandwidth constraints, so they may skip switched digital video and the other evolutionary changes altogether and migrate more directly to a completely IP-based architecture," he said.

RGB’s Hackforth said, "While the two regions may not be in the exact same stage of development as they face different challenges, they are certainly going in a common direction, and operators in each region can learn some valuable lessons from the other."

– Ron Hendrickson

Read more news and analysis on Communications Technology‘s Web site at www.cable360.net/ct/news/.

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