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Digital TV Europe March 2015

Cable Congress 2015 Executive Interview Series > Balan Nair

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2. Balan Nair EVP and CTO, Liberty Global

Liberty Global is leading the charge for cable’s bid to be the provider of choice for connected services in Europe. CTO Balan Nair talked to DTVE’s Stuart Thomson about the company’s priorities for the year ahead.

New Horizons for Liberty Global Liberty

Global has been at the forefront of the emergence of cable as a major force in European telecommunications and media since its emergence in the 1990s – notably as the pioneer of the triple-play concept in Europe. Having acquired a number of heterogeneous networks over the years, most recently adding Virgin Media and Ziggo to its long list of cable assets, the company is now launching the latest phase of its ongoing investment in advanced cable technology. Liberty Global’s willingness to invest in infrastructure to match or exceed the bandwidth available to telecom competitors was evident in UK subsidiary Virgin Media’s announcement that it would invest £3 billion (e4 billion) in Project Lightning, a plan to extend its network reach to two thirds of UK homes and generate up to £1 billion in incremental revenue by 2020. But Liberty Global is also investing in expanding its footprint elsewhere in Europe. “My priority for the next few years is to build out more homes passed,” says Liberty Global chief technology officer Balan Nair, who has been responsible for overseeing the company’s global network, IT,

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and technology operations as well as looking after new product development and overseeing global procurement, since he joined from AOL in 2007. Nair says Liberty Global, which is currently adding between 700,000-800,000 homes to its footprint each year, will invest in fibre-to-the-home networks in new-build areas while extending its HFC plant to reach new homes adjacent to existing networks. He says the Virgin Media Project Lightning announcement will be the first of a number of major network investment projects by the operator. In addition to extending the reach of Liberty Global’s network, Nair is committed to upgrading its existing plant to provide additional bandwidth to subscribers. The key areas of focus for upgrading existing networks are to extend the bandwidth of the plant to 1.2GHz, and to deploy DOCSIS 3.1. These two developments are linked. While DOCSIS 3.1 is compatible with 1GHz RF bandwidth, an expansion to 1.2GHz provides space for full legacy HFC bandwidth and makes space for an additional 200MHz sub-band for the new version of the DOCSIS standard, enabling the deployment of very high-speed broadband services.

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Digital TV Europe March 2015

“This will enable us to offer higher speeds,” says Nair. “We already offer upwards of 100Mbps on every network that we run but we can go much higher. It will enable us to utilise our capacity better.” In addition to investing in increasing bandwidth on networks, Liberty Global is planning to deploy other technologies such as HEVC/H.265 capability in its settops to enable more efficient use of bandwidth. It will also split nodes further to provide greater efficiency for unicast traffic. Nair says that Liberty Global can more than match the capabilities of its rivals’ networks. “We are going fibre-deep ourselves – in many cases deeper than the telcos. The only thing deeper is fibre-to-thehome, and we are not convinced that deploying fibre for the last 50 metres makes sense today,” he says.

Advanced TV Nair says that demand for higher speeds will be driven by applications such as e-healthcare. However, cable customers are already using the bandwidth avail