Anders Christjansen is CEO of Denmark’s triple-play ISP Waoo! and is speaking in the FTTH Deployment and Content Strategies session of the FTTH stream on Day Three of the Broadband World Forum 2012. We catch up with him to find out what has made Waoo! a Scandinavian success story and where he sees the market heading in the future.
What are the major developments and milestones for your business over the past year?
In our two years of existence we have managed to create a strong operation and position in the Danish telecoms market. In 2010 Waoo! was founded by a group of Danish utilities through a merger of three smaller ISPs. Our main role is to develop and market products to run on the combined FTTH networks of the 14 utility companies. Waoo! has had a tremendous growth and our turnover increased during 2011 year with 60 per cent to €53.6m.
Waoo!’s initial focus has been on streamlining operations and supporting our owners growth of connected households. We have done that and have a total of 417,000 products sold. We have an aggressive growth strategy and are taking on the challenge of incumbent providers in the market. In 2012 we launched a highly competitive triple-play product for a new market segment formed by the strong Danish housing associations – a segment with a potential of around 700,000 new households.
In less than two years Waoo! has managed to consolidate a brand position taking us from barely known to top of the market. This is the result of the fact that we are the only Danish content provider who has launched speed warranty on internet. Our customers can feel assured that they always get at least the speed – both upload and download – for which they pay. As a brand new initiative we now also offer all broadband subscribers a pay TV and unlimited VOD service called waoo.tv. This service means that all customers can choose to enjoy television entertainment directly over the internet without having to buy a cable TV package.
What are the main reasons behind your success in your region?
The unique FTTH infrastructure has an enormous capacity and quality unchallenged on the Danish market. Our organization holds knowledge of this infrastructure and the local markets, which makes it possible for us to secure economies of scale for our owners in regards to purchasing, production and marketing.
Our strategy is to take leadership on personal TV – to enrich the television experience for our customers. In the future we will see an irreversible movement towards individualized television experiences: the demand for increasingly more interaction between platforms (e.g. smart phones, tablets, personal computers and television), more free-choice content, more digital personalization and social media interaction – and of cause a demand for better quality, all of which have to be meet by Waoo!. Our launch of waoo.tv is one of the first true moves in our region in this direction.
What are main areas that ISP should look to lower costs?
To lower operating and network technology investments costs, ISPs should look into economies of scale. To increase volume the procurement of content is vital for ISPs.
Will the roll-outs of fast 4G services affect the demand for superfast fixed line broadband?
In my perspective the 4G will initially be complementary to the fixed broadband, but over time it could potentially be an alternative for some types of single-person household.
What will you be doing to ensure wider coverage to those areas that are currently underserved by fast broadband?
The incumbents in Denmark (and Europe) prefer to maintain their position on cobber broadband rather than making long term investments in new generation access. Together with the Danish Energy Association we support a proposal that telcos are demanded to give clear information on actual, real-life broadband speed in their advertising. Such an act would surly help to remove the huge gap between advertised speed and actual broadband speed, which I believe will support the willingness to upgrade the infrastructure – especially in areas not already covered by fast broadband.
Waoo! will also continue to provide the most attractive prices to enforce the roll-out business cases for the utility companies. In this effort we will have to pay close attention to the regional differences and support the utility companies in their local strategies.
What’s your stance on net neutrality?
The question of net neutrality is complex and involves both limits on bandwidth, discrimination of competing content and over-the-top delivery of services. As a representative of utility companies deploying FTTH we are on the side of net neutrality, but we also know that the matter is not either black or white and that there can occur situations where legislation on net neutrality is needed. We operate in a commercial market and we will follow the market development closely regarding new pricing parameters ensuring reasonable payback on FTTH investments.
Where do you stand on bandwidth caps, line throttling and traffic management?
When it comes to limits on bandwidth the most urgent issue of net neutrality is on the technologies where bottlenecks occur – for instance on copper networks and mobile networks. When it comes to fiber optics and limits on bandwidth it is seldom a problem on FTTH, even though we do see data reflecting a tendency towards more heavy traffic among our customers than others.
Even though we have not yet had a need for traffic management, fair access policies and bandwidth caps will most likely be the way the market moves. Every ISP – no matter what technology they use – is being challenged by over-the-top services. Therefore, we expect new pricing models for broadband access, as tested in several US markets, to materialize in Europe. We follow this carefully and must ensure that the investments in the FTTH infrastructure get a reasonable payback.
Where do you see things heading in the broadband market in the next three to five years?
I envision an increasing collaboration between innovative content creators and aggregators with the ISPs in the future. As mentioned we anticipate strong demands for personal TV. On the market right now, too many customers pay expensive cable packages for content they don’t want. Others can’t get access to the content they want because it requires them to pay for expensive cable TV packages. With the developments in content, social media and high speed internet access, we believe that the success of the market lies in giving the customers a choice.
Why are you attending the Broadband World Forum 2012?
I am attending the Forum to share views with like minded and opponents. I hope to have my views challenged and to gain new insights.