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NAB: Altice USA to launch next-gen box as it moves to all-IP network

Altice USA chief Dexter Goei

Altice USA chief, Dexter Goei

Altice USA is to roll out a higher-powered, updated version of the single combined set-top, cable modem and WiFi router it has already deployed in France via SFR.

Speaking at the NAB Show in Las Vegas, Dexter Goei, president of Altice and chairman of Altice USA, said that the box, described as a single communications hub, could “deliver the most effective performance of any WiFi router today” supporting speeds of up to 1Gbps.

“It is something that will drive less clutter in the home, [and provide] a much more powerful user experience,” said Goei, who revealed that the device is currently being tested by Altice Labs in Portugal.

“We are relying on a group technology effort to bring a new product to this market,” he said, claiming that no other provider is currently bringing such a product to the US market.

Goei told Digital TV Europe that the box would be a higher-powered version of the La Box device already deployed in Europe and would include additional features such as an improved UI and voice control.

He told DTVE that Altice’s plan is “to go fully IP” with this device in the second half of next year, but declined to give a specific timeline for the rollout of the box itself.

Goei told NAB Show attendees that Altice saw an opportunity to bring its technology and investment know-how to the US, adding that US network infrastructure that had seen less investment than other markets.

Goei said that fibre “remains the most robust and reliable technology” and that Altice is a big believer in investing in fibre now. “We know we’ll be at competitive advantage relative to some of our peers,” he said. “We think it is a good return on capital in the long term, and we are a long term player.”

In a relatively lightly attended NAB Show keynote session – Goei was one of the first leading cable execs to address this audience – the Altice USA chief said that he expected further changes in the US cable market, including further consolidation. However, he said that while Altice would weigh further opportunities carefully, it was nevertheless “happy” with its current scale in the market.

“We are very focused on our existing operations. We are doing an IPO to be ready for any type of combinations…but we may not have to use it [for that].”

He said that Altice would continue to look at opportunities but that M&A deals are more about making strategic sense rather than achieving scale for its own sake.

Goei said that he was “cautiously optimistic” about the new regulatory environment in the US and that new FCC chairman Ajit Pai had helped clear up some of the issues impacting on the industry.

Goei said that cable industry’s issues with previously proposed regulations were “about being treated fairly”. He said cable was being asked to “do something onerous relative to our peers” under the previous regime.

These comments were in reference to the plan under previous FCC chairman Tom Wheeler to force cable operators to ‘unlock’ their set-top boxes to allow multiple set-top providers to compete, and the proposed imposition of so-called Title II regulation on cable.

Asked whether Altice USA would invest in content, Goei said that “content is really important” for Altice at a global level, but that it only makes sense to invest directly in content in territories where it is a major player. In the US, Altice’s overall share of the market is still small, he said.

Goei said that Altice is open to bringing OTT services to its customers and drew a distinction between OTT TV services and the new wave of competitive ‘skinny bundle’ MPVDs. He said that while some OTT TV providers are evolving into channels that could be marketed direct to users by service providers, the new wave of virtual MPVDs were more than that.

“Today virtual MPVDs don’t deliver a radical product at a compelling price but I’m sure that will evolve. Our real focus… is to make sure we deliver all the various options a client would want in their home through our technology via the set-top box,” he said. “People will get these services anyway. The issue is that the customer wants to get the best products at the best price.”

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