Normally, we would advise a telecoms operator that faces stiff competition from established pay-TV operators to take a low-cost approach to TV, targeting new types of TV customer by partnering with strong content and consumer electronics brands rather than building everything from scratch (see Bundling: The smartest dumb-pipe strategy in town).
“We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run”. Amara’s law will probably apply to superfast-broadband services, but it’s little comfort to those operators faced with investing in the multi-billion dollar networks that will support them. While most have one very solid short-term reason for investing in next-generation access – competition from cable – what they might gain in the longer-term remains unclear.
Ten UK cities have been allocated a share of a £114m (US$185 million) government investment to deploy city-wide broadband networks. London will receive the largest share, £25m, while Leeds and Bradford will share £14.4m. Belfast will receive £13.7m and Manchester £12m.
Telecoms and pay TV operators will increasingly need to add new services such as Spotify and YouView to their bundles to keep existing subscribers and attract new ones. Although the simple packaging of telecoms and media products at a discounted rate might not seem like the most innovative strategy, it has proved to be the most powerful one as customers place more value on price, simplicity and convenience.
So, everyone’s agreed: broadband operators will eventually replace their decades-old copper networks with superfast fibre all the way to the home. That, at least was the consensus of some speakers on stage at last week’s fibre-to-the-x (FTTx) and Next-Generation Access (NGA) Summit in Berlin, Germany. But talk from operators and vendors on the show floor gave me yet more cause to question this conclusion
The Net-neutrality debate was, in one form or another, a key theme of today’s Broadband World Forum in Paris. For the majority of operators and telecoms equipment vendors speaking, the thorny issue of content providers in some way paying the owners of the broadband networks which their services travel “over the top” of was definitely a matter of “should”, rather than “if”.
Apple’s rivals have been particularly buoyed by the company’s seemingly underwhelming TV strategy. The latest version of Apple TV features no App Store and no apps. But there are several reasons Steve Jobs should not be overly worried.
How much do governments want superfast broadband? Pretty badly, it would seem. Barely a week goes by without a politician or regulator warning that next-generation access (NGA) networks will be essential to their country’s social and economic health. But recent developments in NGA technologies should give them pause for thought about what they are willing to sacrifice in order to reach their goals.
I’m no fan of conferences where everyone agrees and leaves with pretty much the same opinions they had when they arrived. In my opinion, such love-ins do the attendees a disservice and have played no small part in driving the telecoms industry down numerous dead-ends over the years. That’s why I found the European Competitive Telecommunications Association (ECTA) conference so refreshing.
Early adopters put up with a lot. They risked crippling back injuries to tote the first portable laptop computers. They paid over the odds for broadband for the pleasure of being “always on,” albeit at 512Kbps. They overlooked the many failings of numerous generations of smartphones to access the Internet on the move. So it should come as no surprise that the latest trend to sweep the telecoms and media markets should prove to be a bit of a disappointment.
I was pleasantly awoken by my clock radio this morning to hear an Oxford University academic go “off-message”, as PR people and government spin doctors call it.
At Informa Telecoms & Media, we don’t often use charts, graphs or diagrams to illustrate our thought pieces, but sometimes a picture can paint a thousand words, as the old saying goes.
As debate continues over whether the latest micro-amendment to the European Union’s telecoms regulation will defend or destroy the supposed neutrality of the internet, one major question remains unanswered: whether it was ever in danger in the first place.
Picture the scene: a music-industry debate hosted in a small room above a pub in Soho, London. “Just answer me: Are you technically able to stop people sharing our music illegally online?” The casually dressed moderator’s voice was tense. It was the third time he’d asked the question.
Are Europe’s former state-owned telecoms monopolies still so powerful that they can halt the march of technological progress? That’s the charge levelled at Danish incumbent TDC by one of the Denmark’s leading fibre-to-the-home operators, aggrieved at the low take-up of its super-fast broadband products.
I had an interesting conversation last week with Steve Glagow, the leader of Orange Partner, the ambitious third-party developer programme of France Telecom. And he confirmed to me that Orange was planning to do something we suspected an operator might try sooner or later: build an Apple-style app store for IPTV.
Some of you may scoff at the notion that mobile group 3 could teach fixed-line ISPs a thing or two about the broadband business. After all, 3 spent the best part of a decade – and an estimated US$20 billion – to become a “new kind of media company” before realizing that the killer apps for its next-generation wireless network were cheap voice and unfettered Internet access. But in doing so, it has learned an important lesson that operators rushing to bring ultrafast cable and fiber broadband services to market could do well to consider.
Nearly 18 months ago, Informa Telecoms & Media reported that the European Commission was preparing to float the idea that broadband should be designated as a “universal service”, that is, made available and affordable to even the most disadvantaged in society. At the time, experts predicted that the plan could result in an embarrassing PR battle for Europe’s operators, which were likely to oppose such a proposal because of the costs involved. Last month, the Commission finally published its green paper, yet few politicians, consumer groups or technology advocates have raised their voices in support of the cause. The problem, it seems, is that they are locked in another PR battle that is embarrassing for all the wrong reasons.
At a recent industry event, a number of executives trotted out the latest variation on that old maxim of the telecoms industry: “Customers don’t really care about technical details; they just care about what technology can do.” In this instance, it was applied to broadband speeds: “Customers don’t really care that our network can’t deliver 8Mbps speeds, they just care that it allows them to access YouTube, Facebook, etc.”
Hamid Akhavan’s claim at the CeBIT trade show in February, that there will be more subscribers to mobile broadband than to DSL within a few years will no doubt lead to a rash of reports predicting that fixed-to- mobile substitution will spread from voice to broadband.