Jan Vorstermans is chief technology officer of Telenet in Belgium.
Telenet, along with ntl, has been one of the first cable operators to move to a “quad play” model. How are you linking the mobile element of what are you doing with the traditional “triple play” of services?
In July 2006, Telenet delivered a key announcement toward becoming a full-service multi-play operator through the launch of its Telenet Mobile service. Customers on the Telenet network can now obtain basic and premium cable TV services (including iDTV), fixed and mobile telephony, and a range of narrowband and broadband Internet services. To offer this array of services in a convenient form, Telenet has formed a number of bundles, including Belgium’s first quad-play bundle.
Telenet’s bundles offer not only convenience, but also pricing benefits. Customers subscribing to one of Telenet’s bundles can save anywhere between 140 euros and 260 euros on an annual basis. Invoicing has been enhanced to offer customers clarity about the bills they are paying. In a nutshell, we are creating an integrated offer mainly from a service aspect: one bill, one support service and one pricing plan. Of course, the mobile offer is also included in our bundled offers.
How successful have you been in deploying VOD services? What are your plans in terms of offering SVOD and other types of interactive TV services?
VOD has been a key service from the launch of our iDTV service. In the service, we offer a mix of free content, transaction-based pricing and subscription plans. Of course, we offer movies on demand, but a lot of effort goes into creating with our broadcast partners packages of “broadcast on demand.” Our digital TV product has also been interactive from the start, again with a focus on allowing viewer interaction such as play-along and voting during popular programs. We have seen a quick adoption of these services, and our offering is continuously expanding.
What would you say are your main technical achievement over the last 12 months? If we have this conversation at the same time next year, what major technology achievement would you like to have executed?
The full launch of our interactive digital platform has been a key milestone, together with the MVNO-based mobile product. Key for next year will be a continued convergence in the network and in our systems of the various services we offer today.
Could you tell us about the Mach 3 project? What are its goals? How are you going to keep Telenet one step ahead of other cable operators in Europe? Could you tell us the investment in Mach 3 and why you think it will pay off in the future?
Our goal with the Mach 3 project is very simply to create additional bandwidth through a number of different projects. For Telenet, the further development and improvement of the network has the highest priority. The new Internet and digital revolution are here, and consumers are increasingly asking for faster speeds and more content. The rise of content created by the consumers themselves and offered online, for example, is irreversible. With the expansion of a new digital network—the Mach 3 network—which will be ready at the end of 2008, Telenet will strengthen its technological lead even further. For example, the implementation of EuroDOCSIS 3.0 will make it possible to ramp up Internet speeds to 200 Mbps downstream and 30 Mbps upstream. With the expansion of the network bandwidth by 150 MHz—to almost 600 MHz—and with improved coding techniques, the available digital bandwidth for Internet and iDTV applications will multiply. This expansion of digital capacity will take place gradually, and the new possibilities of this digital network will also be offered gradually to customers in the form of new product formulas and other services.
When the Mach 3 upgrade is completed at the end of 2008, users will be able to surf up to five times faster than today and up to four times faster than with the comparable technology of the immediate competition. The investment costs of the Mach 3 project are entirely covered in Telenet’s long-term financial plan. And Mach 3 should allow us to keep our products ahead of the competition, ensuring us good market share and low churn.
With telcos moving en masse into IPTV, and therefore triple play, what can cable players do to leverage the strengths of their networks?
At Telenet, we have been focusing on the triple play for a while, and have made our network ready for the next-generation products. All our services run over an integrated IP backbone and are managed by an integrated IT system. These are key starting points. For the future, we need to focus on the most cost-efficient ways of delivering our products and services and on introducing switching concepts in our video offering. But don’t forget here with cable broadcast technology we have a significant head start on IPTV competition.
What impact will the new DOCSIS 3.0 specifications have on your business? Could you tell us about the advanced digital services you are looking to deploy over the next two years?
It is like with processor power: Whenever more power is available, new applications will be developed to use that power. I firmly believe that the requirements for high-speed data capabilities will continue to grow, and DOCSIS 3.0 will be a key platform to deliver against those. Advanced digital services will certainly be developed in the sphere of digital TV and in the convergence among the various platforms and services. You could think of services such as accessing video libraries on your TV set, our having content rights across TV, PC and mobile device. Video will certainly become more prominent in our daily lives.
What is your organization’s current balance among video, voice and data technologies? How do you see that portfolio shifting or evolving over the next three to five years?
We have seen some shifts—for example, Internet is now our largest product group—but the shifts have not been enormous. Mainly because we have always had revenues nicely balanced among these technologies, and of course, we have been growing steadily in every product group.