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Liberty Global addresses home network with IoT in mind

Balan Nair

Balan Nair

Liberty Global plans to invest in RDK-B-based gateway devices and the in-home network in preparation for anticipated  growth in demand for Internet of Things applications as well as growing demand for the delivery of video to multiple devices, according to Balan Nair, EVP and CTO of Liberty Global.

Interviewed on stage at Cable Congress in Warsaw by CableLabs CEO Phil McKinney yesterday, Nair said RDK-B – the broadband version of the standard cable platform developed by Comcast and others,originally for TV set-top boxes – is a critical component of the stack the company is building for broadband access products. “We plan to innovate on that stack,” he said. “Middleware is powerful if you use it properly. We need intelligence on these devices because IoT is coming.”

Nair said Liberty planned its future in three year cycles. In terms of applications and services, Nair said the company would focus on mobile and B2B in the current cycle. Further out, he said Liberty aimed to be “a big player in IoT” and would also think about its potential involvement in 5G mobile and artificial intelligence, “which will be a big part of what we do”.

In the next three years, the company will “harmonise” its back-office systems as well as invest in new-build networks, with 1.6 million homes to be built out this year and up to seven million over the full three-year period.

More generally, Nair said that Liberty Global sees that competitors across Europe have “woken up” and are doing a lot of the right things, while a number of new entrants are also disrupting the industry.

Liberty’s best response, he said, is to focus on its bundle of products. He said that consumers like bundling and are interested in video and increased bandwidth, all at a low price. “You’ve got to figure out how to do this in a very cost-efficient way,” he said. “I’m a big believer in the quad-play.”

Mobile services will be a big part of this, and the company has adopted three broad approaches – the acquisition of a full MNO, as in Belgium, the launch of a full MVNO and the introduction of services through a light MVNO.

With regard to the first of these, Nair said that Liberty’s acquisition of BASE Company in Belgium was “a no-brainer”, while the company is creating a full MVNO in other markets. Other territories have been targeted with light MVNOs.

He said that Liberty would invest in broadband and LTE as well as video in the Caribbean region following its acquisition of local operator Cable & Wireless Communications. “We are very bullish about it,” he said.