18 February, 2016

ETNO ThinkDigital Interview - Speed, latency, content, ubiquitous coverage: Pleasing today’s Digital consumer

On the occassion of the FTTH Conference 2016, Matthias Kurth, Executive Chairman of Cable Europe speaks to ETNO: “The best stimulus for broadband growth is an investor-friendly climate, teamed with a fading out of regulatory constraints where competition is alive and well.” 

As the European Commission reforms the Telecoms Regulatory framework, broadband investment is on everybody’s mind. What is the contribution of cable operators?

Cable operators have been at the forefront of high speed broadband investments in Europe. This was clear in the statistics released by the European Commission in their Sam Knows study.

Our commitment to infrastructure investment can be seen in the fact that the cable industry already has commercial offers in the market for up to 500 Mbps, and the next wave of innovation is already becoming a reality with the roll-out of Gigasphere, the industry’s Docsis 3.1 technology. It’s worth noting that for cable companies, average CAPEX levels have been high and remained fairly stable (between 25% and 20% revenues) from 2004 till 2014.  This significant level of investment is expected to continue.

So what’s our contribution you ask? Where cable is present, we can see that the investment made in broadband infrastructure stimulates the best offers for consumers and the liveliest competition.

Speed, latency, content, ubiquitous coverage: what matters the most for consumers today?

We believe that consumers want a seamless experience, whether they are using multiple devices at home or travelling – that’s one of the drivers of course behind the converging business models of fixed, mobile and wifi, and it’s a trend today which is set to continue. 

What do we actually know about the priorities for today’s customers?  NL Kabel and Cable Europe commissioned a study in 2014 (http://www.cable-europe.eu/independent-study-into-future-internet-speed-requirements-published/) which defined consumption patterns through to 2020.  The study showed that demand is expected to increase incrementally to 165 Mbps downstream and 20 Mbps upstream by 2020.  Cable technology is already well ahead of this curve.  It’s the attractiveness and availability of the services that use broadband connections which will be key for future growth.

The latest Plum Study commissioned by ETNO insists on the need to stimulate infrastructure competition, pursue long-term consumer interest and respect technological neutrality. What’s your take?

We are strong believers in technology neutrality, and with a technologically neutral approach comes healthy infrastructure competition. These are two sides of the same coin.  We can already see in Europe that in countries where there is lively infrastructure competition there are the best broadband networks. We can and should learn from this when looking to the future. The best stimulus for broadband growth is an investor-friendly climate, teamed with a fading out of regulatory constraints where competition is alive and well.

Beyond network regulation, what in your view should be the main focus of the EU in their work towards a Digital Single Market?

Any EU initiative that will strengthen businesses, give them scale, allow traditional players to compete successfully with new players and empower creativity, is a welcome one.  The Audiovisual Media Services directive needs reviewing in favour of reducing regulation.  In any case, it should not result in any form of new regulation.  The SatCab Directive, which is 23 years old, also needs a face-lift.   We made some proposals for this in our response to the European Commission’s public consultation. The Commission’s proposal for “portability of content services” is also a good step forward. This would mean that consumers can watch the content they have subscribed to whilst travelling abroad for example.  It will still allow content to be distributed country-by-country and is a more pragmatic proposal than focusing on cross-border access to content – which refers to  allowing consumers to access content available in another member state.  It looks great in theory but forcing cross-border access is in stark contrast with the way European audiovisual content - such as films - is financed and distributed and could therefore be extremely disruptive.   

By ETNO #ThinkDigital, 18.02.2016


Matthias Kurth, Executive Chairman and Member of the Executive Committee, Cable Europe

Matthias Kurth joined Cable Europe in October 2012 as Executive Chairman. Mr. Kurth sits on Cable Europe’s Executive Committee which has oversight of the cable industry’s main representational duties in Europe. Matthias lastly held the position of President of the German Federal Network Agency, Bundesnetzagentur (BNetzA), the authority for telecommunications, postal, energy and railway markets in Germany, including frequency management and digital signature. He played an instrumental role in the liberalization of the German energy market and left behind notable achievements with respect to competition in the telecommunications market. Matthias also served as Chairman of the European Regulators Group (ERG) in 2009 to increase regulatory cooperation at the EU level.

Mr. Kurth worked as a judge and lawyer for 16 years prior to his roles of President of BNetzA and Chairman of the ERG. He served as State Secretary in the Hesse Ministry of Economics, Transport, Technology and European Affairs between 1994 and 1999.Mr. Kurth was member of the Hesse Land Parliament from 1978 to 1994 and also worked as a lawyer in Hesse.

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