Belgian cablers face Open Cable regulation
By Robert Briel
Published: December 21, 2010 09.15 Europe/London

Following an analysis of the Belgian cable market, the four regulators have put forward proposals to open up the country’s cable networks with regards to analogue cable television, digital television and broadband access. Telenet has already reacted fiercely against the Open Cable proposals.

On Monday, December 20, the national telecoms regulator BIPT, and the three regional media authorities (CSA, Medienrat and the VRM for respectively the French, German and Dutch speaking parts of the country) have issued four proposals to open up the nation’s cable networks to third parties for analogue and digital television distribution and triple play offers.

The operators affected are AIESH (only for reselling their analogue television), Brutélé, Numéricable, Tecteo and Telenet. In Flanders, Telenet is the sole provider of analogue television after the operator merged the Interkabel networks into its activities. In the Walloon part of the country consolidation took place with most operators now belonging to Tecteo. In Brussels, the market is divided between Brutélé and Numéricable (the former Coditel).

In a statement, Yves Derwahl, chairman of the Medienrat, said: “Our country is often pointed at (also by the Belgians themselves) for our excessive charges for triple play and the lack of choice between operators. It is for the regulators to reach concrete solutions.”

After publishing the proposals, all interested parties have a period of two months to give their views on the proposals, which have to be submitted by February 18, 2011.

This morning, Telenet was quick to react to the proposals. In a statement the operator said: “Telenet has taken note of this preliminary proposal and is surprised about the intention to put more regulation on cable operators – the main competitors to the incumbent telco operators – in a market which is still being largely dominated by the Belgian incumbent operator. This proposal would be in contrast to the European Commission’s policy which strongly aims for infrastructure-based competition.

“Telenet firmly believes that with four network infrastructures (including DSL, satellite, DTT and cable) available throughout the whole of Flanders, consumers have currently access to a wide range of television, media and broadband services on different platforms. Based on a number of elements, Telenet is strongly convinced that there is no need for further regulation of the Belgian television and internet market and hence will submit its arguments and proposals for amendment prior to February 18, 2011, according to the procedure.”

Traditionally, the Belgian television market is dominated by the cable operators. At the moment, only Belgacom with its IPTV offer is the only serious competitor. Satellite DTH reception is only marginal compared with cable and IPTV. And the digital terrestrial television network, which is licenced to Norkring, has yet to be established. Interestingly, Norkring has signed an agreement with Telenet to provide the DTT services. At present, only the public Dutch and French language public broadcasters transmit via the DVB-T network.