Liberty Global’s total Irish investment could hit €1bn

13 Nov 2006

Liberty Global’s total investment in the Irish market — including its acquisitions of NTL and Chorus and ongoing infrastructure upgrade of operation now known as UPC Ireland — will stand at between €800m and €1bn, the company’s managing director for Ireland Robert Dunn (pictured) told

Dunn said that UPC Ireland’s infrastructure upgrade will cost in the region of €250m, of which €70m has already been invested.

The company will also be opening a new contact centre in Limerick with 250 customer service jobs being created. As well as this the company will be putting in place 100 new service technicians who will operate across Ireland.

Dunn explained that when the infrastructure investment reaches fruition the Irish operation will be heavily based on fibre and will be capable of pumping 30MB broadband to the home downstream and 6MB upstream.

The company will also be introducing personal video recorder (PVR) services in 2007, followed by video-on-demand services in 2008.

Yesterday UPC Ireland’s parent company Liberty Global announced fourth-quarter revenues of €1.62bn. In Ireland, the company saw its total number of RGUs (revenue-generating units) increase from 630,200 to 640,700 during the fourth quarter.

A breakdown of the figures reveals UPC’s services pass 853,000 homes, of which 595,100 are individual customer relationships. In terms of broadband, the figures reveal that 282,400 homes can now be reached for services, out of which 48,200 subscribers have now been recorded.

“From a standing start the Irish broadband market is now beginning to move at a very fast pace,” Dunn said. “The board of Liberty Global came to Ireland in July and I gave a presentation showing how the market had grown from 274,000 to 354,000 and the latest count is 416,000. The market is literally unfolding in front of us and the board agreed that it was important to accelerate investment.”

Dunn added that the company plans to launch PVR services in the first half of next year, a high-definition box in the second half of next year and video on demand in 2008.

“The video space is definitely going to see an acceleration in sophistication. Our view is that the Chorus side of the business was under-invested and our focus now is to enhance the consumer proposition in those areas.

“We are also aiming to beat Sky in the technology stakes by differentiating against our competitor and providing local content such as that of Channel 6,” Dunn said.

Dunn argued that with 595,100 individual customer relationships UPC is the largest TV operator in the Irish market and he wants to have the same impact with broadband and telephony services.

“We are already providing triple-play services in terms of voice, TV and internet and our focus next year will be to accelerate this and provide all-in-one billing that will work out better value for homes at 30pc to 40pc cheaper than all other costs combined.

“There is a compelling opportunity here to take back some of the market share that the cable business had lost. We’ve seen this in the US with Comcast who, when they got their act together in the triple-play space, became a major force in the market for broadband and TV,” said Dunn.

“In terms of broadband, DSL is predominant in a lot of the market but cable is better than DSL.”

Speaking of the infrastructure upgrade, Dunn said NTL will be putting fibre optics deep into its network. “Our infrastructure will run over a 5GB pipe that, when distributed to homes, will be capable of providing consumers with 180 video channels and 30MB of broadband. The capacity is immense.

“Our aim is to get into our stride in 2007 and in 2008 really kick ass,” Dunn concluded.

By John Kennedy