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Liberty sees Net gain in upgrade

Co. wants to broaden bandwidth to 862 MHz

BERLIN — Countering earlier reports of just a modest makeover of its German cable assets, Liberty Media said Thursday it would eventually seek to broaden bandwidth to 862 MHz, allowing for multimedia services such as high-speed Internet access and video-on-demand.

Speaking at a media conference in Munich, Liberty Media Intl. exec Ronald Steindorf said initial upgrades within the next two to three years would broaden existing bandwidth, allowing for a few more digital channels. But the company simultaneously will look into developing bandwidth of up to 862 MHz in certain areas; likely locations include densely populated urban areas.

Technical costs

Earlier this year, Liberty indicated it would invest about $425 million a year in its German cable holdings, an amount experts said would not finance the major technical upgrade necessary for multimedia services.

By contrast, U.S. cable group Callahan Associates and U.K. firm Klesch, which also have acquired German franchises, have said they will invest several billion dollars apiece in their systems.

Steindorf said Liberty will be set to move forward as soon as it gets government approval for its $5 billion purchase of six of the nine regional cable systems formerly owned by Deutsche Telekom.

Meanwhile, regional regulators said an investment by Liberty in German media giant Kirch would be unacceptable. Liberty topper John Malone has expressed interest in taking a stake in Kirch’s financially troubled pay TV venture Premiere World, but Leo Kirch himself rejected the offer in a recent interview with German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, stating that he had no intention of going into business with Malone.

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