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Cable operators extending support inside and outside the home

Cable operators will increasingly be forced to extend the levels of support they offer to the home network and peripheral devices in the home, delegates to Cable Congress in Brussels heard yesterday.

The wireless router in the home has gone from being something people bought for themselves to cable looking after people’s in-home wireless networks as a matter of course, according to Andrew Barron, chief operating officer of Virgin Media. This is part of a broader trend, said Barron, speaking on a panel made up of COOs.

Barron said that customers increasingly were looking for a mobile dimension integrated with existing products. While it makes sense to integrate sales and marketing, it still makes sense to keep billing and the second line of customer support separate, he said, because telephony was billed as an individual service while TV was billed to a household.

Cable operators are solving more and more problems experienced by customers, said Luis Lopes, chief operating officer of Zon Multimédia, on the same panel. Being able to do it economically enabled cable to cement its relationship with its customer base, he said.

Barron said that network-based DVR is likely to become more important over time. However, he said that the move to network solutions would not be driven by the fault rate in set-top DVRs. “They have many other virtues not least because of the way content rights are negotiated,” he said. If content is stored in the network it is likely to involve an incremental cost, which would have to be passed on to the consumer, he added.

Cable operators are also supporting activities outside the home. Public WiFi is a useful way to extend the reach of services from cable operators, enabling them to bypass mobile networks, said Lopes. Zon uses customer premises equipment deployed to its subscriber base to deliver public WiFi as well as private household WiFi cloulds.

Lopes said this was a good way to deliver content on the go, particularly as MVNO agreements do not typically allow operators to provide heavy data use to their customer bases via mobile networks.