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Liberty Global looking at WiFi First as it mulls mobile options

Liberty Global CEO, Mike Fries

Liberty Global CEO, Mike Fries

Europe is “a quad-play market” and Liberty Global “has a lot of options” and will adopt a variety of strategies for fixed-mobile convergence across the territories in which it is active, including considering ‘WiFi first’, according to president and CEO Mike Fries.

Speaking on an analyst call following the company’s results last week, Fries said that Liberty Global would consider a mix of strategies including MVNO, MNO and WiFi First – the use of WiFi as the primary mobile network and cellular networks to fill the gaps – which, he said, “everybody is looking at”. He said that WiFi First “could very well be a solution over time”, but added that the company would “look selectively and carefully” at the acquisition of mobile network operators “where it makes sense”.

Fries said that it was “too soon to tell” what the benefits would be of acquiring mobile operators as it plans to do in Belgium, although Liberty Global has “a pretty good idea” that the addition of BASE’s mobile subscriber base will deliver benefits.

Fries earlier said that Liberty now had over 4.7 million quad-play customers across 110 countries, with 4G services launched in Switzerland and the Netherlands. Its WiFi footprint now encompasses six million spots across nine markets, which should increase to 10 million early next year, said Fries. He said that in addition to enabling customer to roam for free, in Belgium households with mobile devices currently offload 50% of their usage outside the home to Telenet’s WiFi network.

In the Q&A session, Fries said that the combination of fixed, mobile and free-to-air broadcast channels, which Liberty Global will have in Belgium if its BASE acquisition is approved, would provide synergies and an opportunity to increase the reach of the company’s brands. However, answering questions after his presentation, he said that Liberty Global would “not necessarily” extend this strategy to larger markets. He said that “in the smaller markets” like Belgium and Ireland, where the company is bidding for broadcast channel TV3, the opportunity would be “very interesting”.

Digital TV Europe and Arris will host a webinar on service providers’ WiFi strategies on Thursday November 12 at 15:00 GMT. Click here for details.