Speculation: might Ihug go Dutch?

Most guesses about offshore investors in Ihug have focused on Asian or US companies - but Australian and Dutch companies owned by the same parent company as Saturn Communications also look like a good fit.

Most guesses about offshore investors in Ihug have focused on Asian or US companies - but Australian and Dutch companies owned by the same parent company as Saturn Communications also look like a good fit.

The Dutch company is the broadband Internet provider Chello, which claims to be Europe's largest broadband ISP, with 105,000 customers. It registered the domain name chello.co.nz in September last year and the URL http://www.chello.co.nz points to the company's main Website in the Netherlands.

Chello representatives are understood to be in Auckland at the moment.

Network services for Chello's Australian subsidiary - its first outside Europe - are by Austar. Both companies are linked to United Global Communications (UnitedGlobalCom), which owns Saturn. Chello is an operating company of the Nasdaq-listed United Pan-Europe Communications, which is a consolidated subsidiary of UnitedGlobalCom. Microsoft holds a 7.8% stake in UnitedGlobalCom (it has a similar holding in TVNZ's erstwhile joint venture partner, NTL).

Austar's "wireless cable" service resembles Ihug's Satnet - either relaying pay TV and data services via a local "high point" or direct to the home via satellite. In Australia, it has concentrated on serving regional areas with no cable penetration.

Last August Austar announced the formation of Austar United Broadband, a separate operating company to be dedicated to developing interactive services for delivery in Australia and New Zealand via the OpenTV interactive platform - the same as that used by Sky Digital.

Chello seeks to provide content that takes advantage of high-speed Internet connections. In Australia, Chello customers can receive video and audio feeds from BBC News, Australian news from AAP, regional and rural news from the ABC, technology news from ZD Net, America's Cup sailing from Trans World International and Australian weather reports from Weather 21

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