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AlticeUnit Unwraps Super Gateway, SVOD Service

Offering a possible view into how Altice Group's future tech strategy might play out as it prepares to enter the U.S. market, its SFR unit in France has introduced a new, souped up gateway, initially for FTTP networks, and a multiscreen subscription VOD service for its fixed and mobile platforms.

And there are other big changes on the horizon, as Altice, which has deals in place to acquire Suddenlink  Communications and Cablevision Systems, reportedly will drop the Numericable and Virgin brands in France and put everything there under the SFR banner. Additionally, 62 Numericable stores will be closed, and six will be rebranded under the SFR banner, Génération Câble reported.  

“The group’s premium offers will be carried by a single brand for fixed and mobile, SFR, which is better adapted to the group’s strategy,” Altice said in a recent memo, according to Le Parisien. “The Numericable brand will first be dropped for new customers and eventually for the installed base, with the aim of migrating customers towards SFR.”

The company has also launched Altice Labs, according to Génération Câble, which was live tweeting an Altice meeting held November 9 in Paris featuring chief exec Dexter Goei and Michel Combes, the recently named COO of the group. Altice has also established a procurement company for the entire group that will negotiate with suppliers.

Back to the product-facing activity, SFR is set on November 17 to launch “Box Fibre Zive,” a new set-top box/gateway that bake in a 1-Gig fiber modem, eight tuners, a new UI, a show “restart” function,  support for 4K/Ultra HD video, integrated NFC and Bluetooth, 802.11ac WiFi, and a 500 gigabyte hard drive.

The box, which will be available to 7.4 million eligible connections will also let subs integrate and control other devices, such as Chromecast dongles, gaming consoles and Blu-ray players, through an HDMI pass-through capability.

The combo, “gives the set-top box a central role in the household,” the operator said. A key objective is to establish an “open ecosystem of innovation and strategic partnerships,” an industry source added.

On the content end, SFR is also launching Zive, a multiscreen SVOD service that will offer a library of more than 5,000 HD shows (with a roadmap to 15,000 by the end of 2016), and almost 600 in 4K/UHD and be available exclusively to its fixed-line and mobile customers.

The SVOD product, which will launch by end of year for  €9.99  (US$10.73) per month, will present titles in four categories: Kids, Series, Cinema and Fun – and offer content from studio partners such as Disney/Pixar, ABC Studios, Viacom, Mediatoon, Warner Bros, Europa, Miramax, Sony Pictures Television, and France Télévisions.

Additionally, Altice's Portugal Telecom unit is pushing a plan to build over 18,600 miles (30,000 kilometers) of fiber optic cable in five years, passing an average of 600,000 homes per year, or 3 million homes by 2020. When completed, the network will reach 5.3 million homes (2.3 million now, plus 3 million more by 2020). 

PT said the resulting network, which will enable new NGPON2 technology to coexist with legacy GPON, will evolve from 2.5 Gbps down by 1.25 Gbps upstream, to deliver symmetrical speeds of 40 Gbps and 80 Gbps, the company said.

In France, the Altice said it will extend fiber to 12 million homes passed by the end of 2017, 18 million homes passed by the end of 2020, and 22 million homes passed by the end of 2022.