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Appearing in an opening Congress panel discussion, Manuel Cubrero, CEO, Kabel Deutschland/Director, Consumer Fixed and Cable, Vodafone Deutschland and Mike Fries, President and CEO of Liberty Global were, not surprisingly, unwilling to offer substantive comment on the likely outcome of discussions between the companies over an exchange of assets.
Cubrero, in particular, said he was unable to add much to the June 5th Stock Exchange Statement, but noted that Vodafone’s expressed strategy of combining fixed and mobile assets was now being taken for granted, initially being considered odd. Such a strategy meant that a customer would be able to access desired content by whatever network was the best.
Agreeing, Fries noted Liberty Global’s recent acquisition of mobile operator BASE in Belgium, “because we also could see the benefits of operating a quad-play. Inevitably, most cable operators will be selling you a mobile phone product. That kind of convergence is inevitable.”
In response to the point that Liberty Global’s chairman John Malone had suggested that a tie-up with Vodafone in Western Europe, would be a “great fit”, with “very substantial synergies”, Fries suggested that Malone was merely saying that he believed in thec inevitability of convergence as well, noting that with the MSO’s Virgin Media in the UK, 25 per cent of the operator’s mobile customers were also video customers, “and they don’t churn as much. They are more loyal to your service. So I don’t think he was speaking really at all about corporate stuff, he was validating that we believe in convergence and I think it’s inevitable that most network companies need to try to find as many products as they can and sell them to the consumer because people are willing to buy from one company.”