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RealTime IT News

Spain's Auna and NDS Push Interactive TV Network

MADRID -- As Spain's Auna Group continued its capital-intensive push for a nationwide digital television infrastructure, NDS this week announced that it would join Auna to create one of the largest digital cable TV systems in Europe.

The projected plan will take digital cable television to several million Spanish homes. While Auna will reap the benefits of the Spain-wide name recognition built up by its operating companies since the country's telecom liberalization, NDS will integrate the conditional access systems and the broadcast control system. NDS's central service platform will help Auna to offer services by region and in local languages (such as Castilian, Catalan, Basque and Galego).

Auna, which encompasses a broad array of Internet, cable and telephony concerns, has already spent more than $4.2 billion on its telecommunications infrastructure. The company's strategic plan for 2001-2005 has earmarked an additional infrastructure investment $5.3 billion. Despite such ambitious investments in a hotly contested telecommunications market, Auna has predicted a positive EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes and amortization) for 2001 and expects to show positive net earnings in 2004.

"In terms of investment and employment creation, Auna is one of Spain's ten top companies," Auna president Luis Alberto Salazar-Simpson said recently.

Salazar added that, "unlike those who want to participate in this sector without investing in infrastructure," Auna has "the [financial] solvency necessary to position itself as a network, services and content operator."

Even so, the agreement with NDS is expected help Auna reduce its capital investment and operational costs.

"NDS has built complex, multi-platform systems in a variety of markets and our expertise and experience is acknowledged across the world," said Dr. Abe Peled, President and CEO of NDS. "Spain is consistently an early technology adopter, particularly in the broadcast sector and this project will take it to the next level."

Peled said the joint project "will transform the entertainment and information network within the country."

The Auna group is a leading competitor to the incumbent operator Telefonica and is a growing force in Spain's emerging digital television market. While its most recognized companies are the nationwide fixed telephony operator Retevision and the mobile telephony concern Amena, Auna also includes the web portal eresMas and regional companies like Madritel and Canarias Telecom.

NDS Group plc, a News Corporation company, is a leading provider of conditional access systems and interactive applications for digital pay TV, delivering information and entertainment to both PCs and TV set-top boxes. The company also offers datacasting solutions for data and multimedia distribution. The Spanish venture follows on the tails of cable investments in Asia, Israel and the United States.