European cable modem use to rocket

Europe is set for a massive increase in the use of data over cable services, according to a report today from analyst firm IDC.

The number of cable modem users is predicted by IDC to grow exponentially over 1998-2003, with total revenues from cable modem shipments set to increase from $33m (£20.1m) in 1998 to almost $550m (£335m) in 2003.

However the report finds that there are still several hurdles to be faced before Europe can achieve full penetration by cable services.

Second generation cable modem manufacturers will have to deal with standardisation problems and the differences in the adoption of varied cable modem services in different countries across Europe, according to IDC.

The report reccomends a number of requirements that manufacturers will have to accommodate for the market to prosper. It claims cable modems will have to provide an ever increasing amount of bandwidth to deal with the rapid adoption of demanding multi-media applications, such as streaming video.

Lower hardware costs are also a vital factor in driving the uptake of cable modem services, it says. IDC suggests that one way in which this can be achieved is for cable modems to become standards-based, or at least future-proofed for a standard specification. This could also smooth the path for retail distribution, the company believes.

IDC sees the strongest competition to cable services coming from digital subscriber line (DSL) technologies, with cost again a significant factor in the eventual outcome.

Furthermore, in order for service operators to offer wide ranging services -- from which a large proportion of their revenues will derive -- IDC believes that cable modem manufacturers will also need to prepare their products for the implementation of additional services, such as Voice over IP (VoIP).