Euro digital cable, broadband surges in '06

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AMSTERDAM, The Netherlands -- The European Cable Communications Assn., Cable Europe, Tuesday reported 12% growth in cable revenue to €18.8 billion ($24.3 billion) in 2006. It also recorded a 53% surge in digital cable TV to 11 million subscribers, and a 26% rise in broadband Internet to 13 million subscribers.

Cable Europe president Manuel Cubero told the association's annual Cable Congress in Amsterdam that 2006 had been a landmark year with double-digit growth across all the market sectors. "This is not only good news to have this solid growth, but if you look back from 2006, we've doubled our revenues as an industry in six years," said Cubero.

Europe had seen four million more cable subscribers in 2006, which was probably more than the U.S., he said, adding that it was no longer just the U.K. that was driving digital growth: "We've left behind us the days when the other big countries in Europe were under-developed," Cubero said. However, he said that although digital cable TV was finally taking off in Europe, it was still significantly lagging behind the U.S., and more work was needed to unify Europe's fragmented markets and regulatory regimes.

In six years, from 2000 to 2006, the European cable revenues doubled from €9.4 billion to €18.8 billion, Cable Europe said, with broadband Internet and telephony services now accounting for more than one third of the total revenue.

Cable telephony services, showed 21.6% year-on-year growth in subscribers to over 10 million, the association said, predicting even stronger growth in 2007 with voice-over-Internet protocol (VoIP) cable telephony as the main driver.

Cable Europe vice president Manuel Kohnstamm said the association was working with the European Commission to deal with various national barriers to cable in European member states. He said that in some of the German regions, the local media authorities insisted that any digital terrestrial television channel is automatically granted "must carry" status on local cable systems. There have also been concerns raised with the media authorities in Hungary and the Netherlands. "We need a string voice in Brussels so that we can be heard and express our rights. We're pleased that the Commission is open to a level playing field in this competitive market," Kohnstamm said.

He also raised concerns about the increasing tendency of local and national authorities to provide state-subsidy to new electronic infrastructures in digital terrestrial, WiFi and fiber-to-the-home. "Such subsidies distort markets and impede investments and network upgrades," he said.
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