Telenor CEO dreams about being a cable operator

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    In an unusually frank admission, Berit Svendsen,  Executive VP and CEO at Telenor Norway said today that, “As a fixed incumbent telco, we actually dream about being in the position of a cable operator when it comes to the network, with their competence in TV and many television customers and their high capacity broadband.” She said that, limited by their copper telephone lines, traditional telcos find it hard to keep up with customer demand.

    Svendsen was speaking on the first day of Cable Congress, surrounded on a panel by cable executives who were all bullish about their own prospects, partly because of the high capacity broadband she referred to and partly because they are cementing their relationship with customers through next-generation platforms that make it easier for them to fulfill their role as a curator of entertainment.

    Svendsen had a warning for cable operators though, telling them that while they have a 3-5 year advantage over incumbent telcos, they can be hurt by fibre-to-the-home services. She points to Norway as an example, where utility companies have deployed fibre to over a fifth of homes and offer this alongside interactive TV offers. “They are really competing with cable. Where they go into an area with fibre there is a problem for cable.” She predicted that a combination of fibre and good service will win against cable but admitted that cable is in a better position than the incumbent telcos today.

    Annet Aris, Member of the Board at Kabel Deutschland and Sonoma, and Adjunct Professor at INSEAD, agreed that cable has a window of opportunity before fibre increases competition with them. She believes the strategy for cable operators during this time should be to create an ecosystem in the customer home that makes everything very easy to use. “That is an enormous challenge and requires a lot of skill building in cable companies,” she suggested.

    Aris noted that when the gap between cable and broadband speeds is eventually narrowed the battle for customers will be decided by who performs the job of curation best. “Those who have the best user interface and the best access to content will capture a large share of the market,” she predicted.

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