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Before yesterdayBroadband TV News: Cable

New online platform for Romania

By Chris Dziadul

Romania’s leading regional cable operator Akta has launched an online TV platform.

An app allows customers to watch such channels as the proprietary Cinemaraton and comedyEst online both directly on www.akta.ro and on Android mobile devices, with iOS to be added shortly.

Accessing the online platform on the Akat site and on mobile devices is done using the Akta My Account login.

In addition to viewing channels, the app gives access to a programme guide as well as favourite shows, from day to day and from the previous day.

Although the platform currently offers seven channels, the number will soon be increased.

FRK demands strong conditions for Unitymedia Vodafone merger

By JΓΆrn Krieger

German cable operator association FRK calls for tough conditions from the competition and regulatory authorities to be imposed on Vodafone in the antitrust review of the planned acquisition of Unitymedia.

“The merger should only be approved if the new telecommunications giant grants its customers in the housing industry a special right of termination for all existing contracts. In addition, the company must be regulated in the broadband market and committed to open access because of its size,” FRK chairman Heinz-Peter Labonte said at the FRK Broadband Congress in Leipzig.

Due to the considerably growing market power regarding financing, digitisation and bundled offers as well as a market share of more than 80% in the cable market, FRK expects that it will become increasingly difficult for small and medium-sized network operators to cope with competition.

“It will become nearly impossible for our members to move into other coverage areas. On the other hand, it will be much easier for the larger Vodafone to attack them in their local markets with all its might. We have therefore submitted applications for hearings at the EU Commission and at the Federal German Cartel Office as part of the preliminary proceedings currently underway in order to present our positions,” explained Labonte.

FRK is not only concerned with the cable TV market. In view of almost 30 million addressable households, the significantly larger Vodafone plays a key role in Germany’s expansion into a gigabit society and the next mobile communications standard 5G. “In view of this market power, open access should become mandatory for Vodafone and the company should be subject to regulation,” stressed Labonte. “For medium-sized and municipal companies increasingly serving their customers via fibre-optic lines, open access has long been a matter of course.”

Orange counters UPC FTTH claims

By Chris Dziadul

Orange has accused UPC of falsely claiming to be offering a 1Gbps FTTH service in Poland.

In a release, the company says it has devoted “a lot of work, time and money” to make fibre-optics synonymous with the best and fastest internet. It goes on to say that UPC does not offer true FTTH, instead bringing fibre-optic close to buildings and then using coaxial cable to reach customers. What is more, UPC is really using DOCSIS and HFC technology, and its Giga Connect Box cannot be connected to fibre-optic.

Orange adds that a similar situation existed in France before the regulator stepped in. As a result, cable operators there now advertise their services as “fibre with coax termination”.

Broadband TV News notes that UPC launched its first 1Gbps service in Poland in Warsaw earlier this month.

Liberty Global launches DOCSIS 3.1 in Germany with Arris

By JΓΆrn Krieger

Liberty Global has deployed the Arris E6000 Gen 2 platform to roll out DOCSIS 3.1 services in Germany.

The launch in the town Bochum marked the first commercial 1Gbps internet deployment by Liberty Global’s local subsidiary Unitymedia. The company uses the E6000 Gen 2 platform to pave the way for faster broadband speeds, higher network capacity and lower operating costs, according to the UK-based technology provider.

The platform enables Arris customers to achieve up to a 70% increase in headend service group density without consuming more rack space. This equates to both cost savings and capacity upgrades for HFC access networks, regardless of network composition and scale.

“We’ve had the vision to upgrade our network to DOCSIS 3.1 for some time, and our number one priority was ensuring that our customers had a seamless transition,” said Colin Buechner, managing director, access network, Liberty Global. “Arris is a longstanding partner in many of our global deployments. We’re already taking advantage of the new efficiencies in our network and we’re well on our way to making Gigabit services a reality for our customers.”

Arris showcases its E6000 Gen 2 platform at IBC 2018 in hall 1 at stand B19.

Ocilion develops 4K/HDR over IP boxes

By JΓΆrn Krieger

Austrian IPTV solutions provider Ocilion is developing its fourth generation of set-top-boxes.

The new P400 family consists of four models, all of which are suitable for Ultra HD/4K and HDR and, thanks to their modular system, can serve all common network infrastructures (HFC, FTTH, VDSL, OTT).

The P420 is designed for the use in an all-IP environment. For cable operators, two hybrid models for DVB-C/IP – P470 and P480 – are available with eight tuners each. The P450 is designed for buildings with existing Ethernet cabling, for example hotels, hospitals or company buildings.

All models feature Ethernet and WLAN (2×2, 2.4/5.0 GHz), Bluetooth and infrared reception. For local recording, several storage options are available: an internal micro-SD card (factory-installed), an external micro-SD slot and an USB 3.0 port for external hard disks and memory sticks.

Premium content is protected with integrated Verimatrix 4.0 Ultra DRM.

“The new P400 set-top-box family combines innovation, design, functionality and effectiveness. With the four models, we serve all the needs of network operators and end-customers,” said Hans Kühberger, managing director of Ocilion IPTV Technologies. “As the software is developed by us, we can quickly roll out new functions across all boxes.”

“With our 4K end-devices, TV apps and content cooperations, we are putting together a unique and future-proof IPTV product. Network operators get an all-inclusive IPTV solution,” added Kühberger. “The first P400 set-top-boxes will be available by the end of the year.”

Ocilion will present the latest developments of its IPTV solutions including the P400 product family at IBC 2018 in hall 1.D11 and hall 14.D12.

Unitymedia and ZDF settle cable carriage fee dispute [UPDATE]

By JΓΆrn Krieger

German cable operator Unitymedia and public broadcaster ZDF have settled their long-standing legal battle over the payment of carriage fees for the cable distribution of ZDF’s channels and have agreed on a long-term carriage deal.

After ARD and ZDF had already reached an agreement with Vodafone and ARD with Unitymedia in spring 2018, both public broadcasters have now settled their disputes with the two largest German cable operators and concluded new, long-term carriage contracts.

With the new agreement, Unitymedia customers in federal states North Rhine-Westphalia, Hesse and Baden-Württemberg will now receive the complete range of ZDF and 3sat channels in SD and HD resolution, including services for barrier-free use (audio description, subtitles and sign language). In the near future, ZDF’s catch-up TV ZDFmediathek service will also become available on Unitymedia’s multimedia platform Horizon.

The legal dispute dealt with the controversial question whether ARD and ZDF, as broadcasters with ‘must carry’ status, require a contract for cable distribution and have to pay a fee to the cable operators. In 2012, ARD and ZDF terminated their carriage contracts with the two major cable operators effective December 31, 2012 and stopped making payments.

It can no longer be justified that fees are paid to companies that earn good money from the distribution of the public channels, said ZDF’s general director Dr Thomas Bellut at the time. ARD and ZDF recently suffered a setback in the dispute: In July 2017, the Düsseldorf Higher Regional Court ruled that the broadcasters were obliged to pay carriage fees.

In May 2018, it became known that ARD pays Unitymedia €31.2 million retrospectively for the cable distribution of its channels since 2013 as part of the settlement. A total of €100 million is paid to Vodafone by ARD and ZDF.

German cable associations FRK and Deutsche Netzmarketing GmbH (DNMG) demand that ARD and ZDF treat small and medium-sized cable operators equally and also pay them carriage fees. FRK has referred the case to the Federal Cartel Office.

[UPDATE] 18.00 CET: A Unitymedia spokesman has confirmed to Broadband TV News that the payment of carriage fees are part of the new carriage contract: “ZDF and Unitymedia have reached a comprehensive and forward-looking agreement that goes far beyond the distribution of TV channels. In addition to the carriage of linear channels, the close cooperation will also include multimedia services and the support of non-linear convenience functions such as restart, reverse EPG etc. through Unitymedia’s Horizon platform.”

“Within the framework of the cooperation regarding the now agreed distribution of linear and non-linear programme offerings and the amicable termination of the years of litigation, ZDF is also paying a fee to Unitymedia,” the spokesman confirmed. “Please understand that we do not wish to comment further on contract details.”

ZDF declined to comment: “We ask for your understanding that we do not provide any information on the details of the agreements,” a ZDF spokeswoman told Broadband TV News.

The amount of carriage fees ZDF pays to Unitymedia is currently unknown, but – as in the case of ARD – is likely to be disclosed in the upcoming quarterly report of parent company Liberty Global.

Telenet to test new 4k STB with 20,000 customers

By Robert Briel

Beginning this month, Belgian operator Telenet is set to test its new 4k set-top box, which they call TV-box, with 20,000 customers.

The operator has invited Telenet customers to test the new box, which features cloud-PVR rather than a local hard disk. Recordings will automatically be erased after 60 days, unless the viewer wants to keep the recording, which is possible up to five years.

Customers can select their favourite channels and keep them in a preferred order. The smaller STB does not show a numerical display with the current time and channel number. Also, there is no more on-screen webmail, and people can no longer access locally stored videos and photos using DLNA.

Apart from the regular linear channels and on-demand services, the TV-box allows direct access to Netflix and Youtube. For radio listening, a separate screen is now active which offers direct access to all radio stations. Until now, people had to switch channels between the radio channels.

At a press conference earlier this summer, Telenet CEO John Porter said the new STB would also support voice control, but the current consumer information from Telenet does not (yet) give this in formation.

In a related development, Dutch Media Distillery announced that it will bring artificial intelligence to Belgian TV homes as it looks to improve the television viewing experience for users of digital video recorders and replay services.

The company signed an agreement with the operator that will roll out the Media Distillery technology in phases across over 100 television channels between now and the end of the year.

B.net to be rebranded A1

By Chris Dziadul

The Croatian cable operator B.net will start using the brand name A1 in October.

At the same time, Vipnet, of which B.net is part, will become A1 Croatia.

Vipnet has been part of A1 Telekom Austria Group for over 19 years and B.net part of Vipnet for seven years.

Last year A1 Telekom Austria Group decided to rebrand all its companies, including Vipnet, as A1.

Following the name change, all B.net products will continue to be offered in the A1 portfolio.

Digi makes its mark in European cable

By Chris Dziadul

Romanian-owned Digi (RCS&RDS) is the third largest cable operator in Europe after Altice and Liberty Global.

Quoting a report to investors, Ziarul Financiar reports that it has 14 million RGUs as of mid-2018.

Despite seeing its share price fall by 20% on the Bucharest Stock Exchange in the last year, this indicates that the company has the potential to increase the sale of new products to existing customers.

Digi’s main markets are Romania and Hungary, though it also has a presence in Spain and Italy.

It has a total of 4.5 million TV and 2.9 million internet subscribers.

LIWEST opts for Ocilion IPTV solution

By JΓΆrn Krieger

Austrian cable operator LIWEST has chosen the IPTV system solution from Ocilion for the expansion and development of its TV service.

The Austrian service provider uses its on-premises end-to-end system for the IPTV integration, which is hosted locally on LIWEST’s servers and adapted to the network operator’s requirements.

This includes software, complete system environment, hardware, apps for smartphones and tablets and accompanying services.

The two companies want to announce further details about the new TV offer before marketing commences.

Thomas Funke new CFO of Unitymedia

By JΓΆrn Krieger

Thomas Funke, Vice President Accounting and Finance Operations, will assume the function of Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of German cable operator Unitymedia with immediate effect.

Funke will also become part of the management board. He succeeds Winfried ‘Winni’ Rapp, who was recently appointed Unitymedia’s new CEO, taking over from Lutz Schüler who will become the new Chief Operating Officer of UK-based cable company Virgin Media.

Both Unitymedia and Virgin Media are subsidiaries of Liberty Global.

EC position on Dutch broadband β€œopen-ended and unclear”

By Julian Clover

The trade body representing Europe’s cable operators has slammed the European Commission’s analysis of the Dutch broadband market.

Cable Europe says the draft decision from the Dutch regulator, endorsed by the Commission on Friday, does not sufficiently taken into account the presence of a commercial access offer in the market.

The regulator says operator VodafoneZiggo and incumbent operator KPN as having collective significant market power (SMP) on the wholesale fixed broadband access market. It plans to place third party wholesale access obligations to both networks.

“When landmark regulatory decisions like these are taken they need to be based on objective criteria with strong, convincing evidence of market failure,” says
Matthias Kurth, Executive Chairman, Cable Europe: “I believe the European Commission has not taken enough time to look into the specifics of the case. A more in-depth analysis (a so-called phase two procedure) should have been undertaken. The Commission has missed an opportunity to properly scrutinise the draft decision, in particular with regard to the collective dominance instrument.”

Kurth says the Dutch broadband market is best in class in Europe and has a strong competitive outlook.

Figures released earlier this year by Telecompaper show VodafoneZiggo to hold a market share of 43 per cent, while KPN holds 41 per cent.

UPC CEO: Consolidation makes sense in Swiss market

By JΓΆrn Krieger

Eric Tveter, outgoing CEO of Switzerland’s largest cable operator UPC, is in favour of merging his company with another market player.

“In the Swiss market with four full-service providers, consolidation would make sense,” Tveter told Swiss business magazine Bilanz. “We believe that we are well equipped for an independent future, but we are looking at strategic options.”

For months there have been rumours about a possible takeover of the smaller players Salt or Sunrise by UPC in order to gain more strength in the competition with incumbent operator Swisscom.

Sufficient capital would be available: UPC parent company Liberty Global recently sold its Austrian subsidiary UPC Austria to T-Mobile Austria and announced the sale of its business activities in other European countries, including Unitymedia in Germany, to Vodafone.

On September 1, 2018, after nine years at the helm of UPC, Tveter will hand over the CEO position to Severina Pascu, formerly Chief Operating Officer. Tveter will continue to be responsible for the CEE business as CEO and, as chairman of UPC Switzerland, he will head strategic planning and stakeholder management.

Volia improves content offer

By Chris Dziadul

Ukraine’s leading cable operator Volia will add the new channels Star Family and Star Cinema to its line-up on September 1.

Both are produced by the local company Star Media and will be made available to digital and interactive (OTT) TV subscribers in an additional Cine+ VIP package, as well as in the Premium and Premium HD packages.

Volia will also start promotionally airing the channels Dacia and Epoch on September 1.

It currently offers viewers a choice of four digital TV packages, with the number of channels they contain ranging from 90 to 140.

All except the Start package include HD channels.

Tamedia to acquire majority in Zattoo

By JΓΆrn Krieger

Swiss media group Tamedia wants to increase its stake in TV streaming provider Zattoo International to over 50%.

The company announced the move during the presentation of its figures for the first half of 2018; financial details were not disclosed.

Zattoo is the internet TV market leader in its home country Switzerland and in neighbouring Germany. In addition to the consumer business, Zattoo is also a technical service provider for cable TV and IPTV operators.

The strategic partnership between Tamedia and Goldbach will create new synergy opportunities for the marketing of Zattoo in Switzerland and Germany, according to the company.

Tamedia purchased a 31% stake in Zattoo in 2015, with the option to gradually take over the company by 2021. The majority acquisition is subject to the approval of Switzerland’s Federal Competition Commission.

Ziggo tests Ziggo Go for Apple TV and Android TV

By Robert Briel

Dutch cabler VodafoneZiggo is preparing to launch Apple TV and Android TV apps for its TV Everywhere service Ziggo Go.

“We are now working on internal testing for both Apple TV and Android TV at Liberty Global. This is followed by customer testing. We can’t yet give a concrete date for going live,” Erik Van Doeselaar told local news site TV Totaal.

Liberty Global is part owner of VodafoneZiggo and, as a former owner of Ziggo, takes care of the technical aspects of the cable company’s network.

The demand for apps for Apple TV and Android TV among cable company customers is growing. The apps make it easier to use TV Everywhere service such as Ziggo Go to watch TV channels wirelessly and to use interactive services such as Replay TV.

With the phasing out of analogue TV, Ziggo Go is a good alternative for many if the coaxial cabling in the home environment leaves a lot to be desired from a technical point of view. With Ziggo Go it is possible to watch more than 100 channels live in all countries of the European Union (EU), depending on the tier of TV subscription. Ziggo Go is currently available on desktop, laptop, tablet and smartphone.

UPC goes giga in Poland

By Chris Dziadul

UPC Polska has become the first national operator in Poland to offer its FTTH subscribers broadband access of 1Gbps.

As a result, Warsaw is now Liberty Global’s first gigabit city in Poland and the second in Europe after Bochum in Germany.

Alongside the gigabit service, UPC Polska has also introduced the Giga Connect Box and Smart Wi-Fi in Poland.

The operator notes that it increased the internet speeds to 150Mbps for around 300,000 of its clients this month and that the average download speed it offers is now 170Mbps.

Commenting on the launch of the gigabit service, UPC CEO Robert Redeleanu said: “The introduction of the 1Gbps speed begins the gigabit era in Poland and confirms our leading position in the field of internet and television entertainment. The launch of ground-breaking gigabit speed, which is the result of multi-million investment in the development of fibre-optic DOCSIS 3.1 technology, will allow customers to offer new opportunities in the field of virtual entertainment, as well as support in business development. The groundbreaking speed of 1Gbps, complemented by a consistent increase in speed for loyal customers, as well as a richer portfolio in the field of internet speeds and TV entertainment, is proof that the UPC Polska team wants to innovate and constantly increase customer satisfaction”.

Akado to enter Russian mobile market

By Chris Dziadul

The Russian cable operator Akado plans to become an MVNO by the end of this year, employing Tele2’s network.

According to Kommersant, quoting Akado’s president Sergei Nazarov, this will be one of the ways of retaining and improving the quality of its subscriber base.

The company will undertake tests until the end of 2018 and expects to connect several thousand subscribers next year.

Many of Akado’s competitors are already MVNOs. They include Moscow-based MGTS, which has offered mobile services under its own brand since 2014; Rostelecom; and Transtelecom.

UPC gains Polsat premium football

By Chris Dziadul

Poland’s leading cable operator UPC Polska is making the UEFA Champions League and Europa League available to its subscribers.

This follows the addition of the 24-hour Super HD channels Polsat Sport Premium 1 and Polsat Sport Premium 2, as well as four pay-pay-view services from Polsat Sport Premium, to its offer.

The channels will also be available on the Horizon Go mobile TV service.

The first Champions League play-offs will be shown live from August 21 and the group stages of the Europa League from September 20.

Commenting on the development, Robert Redeleanu, CEO of UPC Polska, said: “We are constantly developing our TV entertainment offer and believe that nothing gives football fans such emotions as access to world-class competitions. Thanks to our cooperation with Polsat, UPC customers will be able to watch the matches of the Champions League and the Europa League live in very good transmission quality for the next three years. It will be a perfect complement to the attractive set of sports events available at UPC, such as Bundesliga, Serie A and La Liga. This is yet more proof of our commitment to providing high-quality content that strengthens our best brand on the Polish market in the field of internet and TV entertainment.”

UPC Switzerland launches MySports One and MySports Preview

By JΓΆrn Krieger

Swiss cable operator UPC will launch new sports channel MySports One on August 14, 2018.

The ‘best of’ channel will show selected live broadcasts of the premium channels MySports 2 to 9.

The schedule will comprise three games per week of the Swiss Ice Hockey National League including discussions with experts, background reports and documentaries as well as Swiss handball, volleyball, basketball, horse racing, motor sports (Formula E and DTM) and eSport.

The channel will also transmit live matches of the German Bundesliga through an agreement with German pay-TV broadcaster Sky Deutschland.

MySports One will be available to all digital TV customers of UPC Switzerland and collaborating network operators at no extra charge.

The previous basic channel MySports HD will continue to exist, but no longer on its current channel slot and under the new name MySports Preview, a UPC spokesman told Broadband TV News. Live sports will continue to be broadcast, but to a slightly lower extent than before, including one game of the Swiss Ice Hockey National League per week. The live sports coverage on MySports Preview is also to be shown on MySports One.