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Cable Needs to Build on Business Voice Success

Carol Wilson
LR Cable News Analysis
Carol Wilson, Editor-at-large

NEW YORK -- The Future of Cable Business Services -- Cable companies should build on their success in selling business voice services by developing advanced services that help their small- and mid-sized (SMB) customers get into social media, videoconferencing and fixed mobile convergence, according to a voice services panel here.

"We've cracked the voice nut," said Ronan McLaughlin, CTO and principal solutions manager for Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC)'s Cable and Media Accounts, referring to cable's success in managed and hosted voice services for SMBs. "Now, it's adding more advanced business services on top of that."

Businesses of all sizes are ripe for new services because they are being affected by the consumerization of technology -- employees are bringing their own technologies to work in the form of smartphones and tablets, and are expecting to use these to access corporate data and get work done from any location.

The panel identified multiple areas where cable operators could assist their customers, including managing bring-your-own-device (BYOD) strategies and mobile apps, adding video communications to the existing voice packages, and offering cloud-based services.

There are challenges in each of these areas, however. For instance, it isn't clear how cable could build a business case in the BYOD arena, said Michael Peek, director of worldwide collaboration sales for Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO).

"Application mobility is more important -- whether supported or not, BYOD is being done today," Peek said. "We are all trying to figure out how we make money on that and how do we support that."

But SMBs are looking for a service provider to step up to handle the challenge for them, and represent the "one throat to choke," said Robert Zeas, principal, Intersolv Consulting.

Similarly, both Peek and McLaughlin urged cable operators to incorporate videoconferencing in their service packages in some form, but admitted that there are interoperability and ease-of-use issues to be overcome in that market.

The newly emerging HDVC initiative, aimed at creating a cross-industry standard for videoconferencing, was launched last February and includes several vendors and telecom service providers, but no cable operators yet, McLaughlin said. He would like to see that change.

"Today there are so many incompatibilities; we are trying to drive a ubiquitous approach," he said.

Cloud services have growing appeal to SMBs, Peek said, and cable companies are well-positioned to deliver those offerings. He also made a pitch for helping small businesses learn how to use social media in more creative (yet controlled) ways, as part of a new kind of integrated services packages.

— Carol Wilson, Chief Editor, Events, Light Reading

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