As of press time, Tony Werner was senior vice president and chief technology officer for Liberty Global. He has since been named CTO of Comcast.
What is the biggest challenge of overseeing multiple platforms across several continents?
While geography and culture do add complexity and create differences, there are more similarities than differences. We have managed to harmonize our data and voice platforms to the point where they are quite similar. We use the same EMTAs and cable modems around the world and have really settled in common CMTS and softswitch platforms as well. This has allowed us to execute global equipment agreements that have been quite helpful to us and to our vendors.
Certain areas such as video don’t allow us to harmonize as much because of PAL vs. NTSC and other geographic specifications, but even there, we have driven commonality in areas such as VOD, edge QAMs and other devices.
Probably the biggest challenge actually results from cultural differences. A practice that is widely accepted in the Netherlands, for example, may not be accepted in Kansai. This is particularly true for voice services.
Liberty Global has grown annually by about $1 billion in revenues for the past two years. Besides the acquisitions and consolidation, what have been the technical drivers behind that growth?
We have had fantastic organic growth, largely fueled by new products. Broadband customers continue to be a great growth engine for us in all of our markets. We have been aggressive to roll out DOCSIS 2.0 and will likely be one of the larger users of the 3.0 product as it becomes available. We operate in certain markets that are quite competitive, but we have always maintained a leadership position in those markets, both in speed and in service.
VoIP has been an incredible complement to our bundle. We have had a TDM telephone product available for a number of years that has done quite well, particularly in Japan and Chile. But VoIP has opened up markets where TDM was not economical to offer, and it has turbo-charged our offerings in existing telephone markets.
And, of course, digital TV has been a big driver of our growth as well. Because of cultural and local regulatory reasons, digital launches lagged behind the United States in most international markets. But since its launch, digital has grown rapidly. Both Japan and the Netherlands are well on their way to reach 100 percent digital penetration.
So just like the operators in the United States, we are currently firing on all cylinders, and the bundle is providing substantial advantages.
At the ECCA conference this year in Vienna, we heard enthusiastic talk from C-level execs about DOCSIS 3.0. Is that largely because of competitive high-speed data offerings?
DOCSIS 3.0 is appealing for several reasons. No. 1 is that it offers us a very economical way of providing 100 Mbps service to our customers. But additionally it offers support for IPv6, enhanced security and multi-casting, so it’s not just about speed.
Which technology do you think shows the greatest promise for the cable industry over the next three to five years?
I think a lot of technologies show some real promise. I am very keen on PacketCable Multimedia and the capabilities that it will provide for us as we evolve our data and voice services. The key will, of course, be having a commercial services offering that can leverage the technology.
You’re one of many notable alumni of Rogers Cablesystems. Why does Rogers seem to be such a good source of engineering talent?
Rogers has always had good engineers, but also great talent in all of the disciplines. I think a lot of it starts with Ted himself. He takes great pride in offering the highest quality and most innovative services possible. Ted is always challenging his engineers to do more and to get it to market sooner. As such, he has attracted several incredible engineers, who I have had the good fortune to learn from.