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Qwest Ready to Ride Video's Over-the-Top Wave

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

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Management World Americas -- Qwest Communications International Inc. (NYSE: Q) continues to chart a unique course among major U.S. telecom service providers, focusing on improving its broadband network in the belief that video content is moving rapidly to an over-the-top (OTT), on-demand model, Neil Cox, Qwest's EVP for product and IT, said here today at the TM Forum -run event.

"Only sports need to be live," Cox said. "We see these walled-garden IPTV models breaking down. We see a tremendous amount of over-the-top video."

For that reason, Qwest will continue to partner with DirecTV Group Inc. (NYSE: DTV), which has added an Ethernet jack to its newest DVR/set-top receiver to bring broadband content to the TV set "to provide a really rich customer experience," said Cox.

Even sports programming is moving to the online model, he said, citing Major League Baseball's successful online video efforts.

"We are seeing ASV -- ad-supported video -- and Blu-rays and new TVs hooked up to the Internet, and we at Qwest are not going to stand in the way," Cox said. "We want to make sure [OTT content providers'] video works better on our network than on anyone else's network."

Qwest will focus on providing content-delivery networks, as well as provisioning, maintenance, and billing, which are the company's strengths, in order to "get into the value stream of these economics," Cox said.

Qwest also sees opportunity in bringing broadband to the 40 percent of customers in its territory that don't yet subscribe, and in moving customers to higher tiered services, given that half of broadband customers today get 1.5 Mbit/s, he said.

Qwest offers 40-Mbit/s downstream and 20-Mbit/s upstream service to the more than 3 million homes passed by its fiber-to-the-node and VDSL2+ network today, Cox said, noting that the telco is adding more than 1 million homes per year to that network. (See Qwest Attacks Comcast With 40 Mbit/s.)

On the enterprise side, cloud computing represents an opportunity for Qwest to move beyond providing space and power in the hosting centers it built on its long-distance fiber network early in the decade to offer cloud computing. Just a few years back, "you could have played football in one of our hosting centers" because they were large empty buildings, but they are now running at 90 percent capacity, Cox said.

— Carol Wilson, Chief Editor, Events, Light Reading

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User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 3:51:31 PM
re: Qwest Ready to Ride Video's Over-the-Top Wave
Or is Qwest a failure because it couldn't deliver an IPTV service that we could take seriously?

Say what you will about walled gardens being doomed, but I know a lot of folks who pay more than $100 a month to companies like Charter and AT&T and those providers aren't splitting revenues with DirecTV.
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 3:51:30 PM
re: Qwest Ready to Ride Video's Over-the-Top Wave
So is IPTV a bad idea, or just a bad idea to Qwest because Qwest couldn't afford it?
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 3:51:30 PM
re: Qwest Ready to Ride Video's Over-the-Top Wave


I don't know about "a failure" but they are the one large telco with really bad financials dating back to the whole Qwest formation.  It is taking a lot of investment by AT&T and Verizon to compete.  Qwest does not have the money to invest, so they are taking the path to save their lines.  Optimal?  Probably not.  But it is probably the only thing they can do.



Jeff Baumgartner
Jeff Baumgartner,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 3:51:29 PM
re: Qwest Ready to Ride Video's Over-the-Top Wave

I think if Qwest had its druthers and could afford to do it, they'd build out their own video service...and take all the subscription and ad dollars that MSOs and VZ and ATT already don't have to share.  Qwest headed down that road too early with the VDSL ChoiceTV stuff they operated in Phoenix and Highlands Ranch, Co, and opted to just phase it all out and put all its video eggs in the DirecTV basket.

But at TelcoTV it seemed like the price for entry for tier2 and tier3 telcos are starting to make more sense, so it'll be interesting to see when or if Qwest alters its strategy or if it's going to stick to DirecTV and continue to sell the virtues of that story.  i don't expect to see much in the way of a change there for a long time.  Jb

Carol Wilson
Carol Wilson,
User Rank: Blogger
12/5/2012 | 3:51:27 PM
re: Qwest Ready to Ride Video's Over-the-Top Wave
The thing is that while IPTV is getting cheaper to deploy, video is not becoming more lucrative as a product - it remains a very low margin product for providers, since most of the service income collected is paid out monthly to content owners. What Qwest has been saying consistently for at least two years now is that they think they can make incremental revenues on other services.
Jeff Baumgartner
Jeff Baumgartner,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 3:51:20 PM
re: Qwest Ready to Ride Video's Over-the-Top Wave
That's a good point. Even though IPTV gear is cheaper, license fees for programming aren't as favorable for a company just getting into the video game and lacking a sizable sub base. Partnering with companies like NCTC help the smaller guys, but the rates they get aren't as good as those that big guys like Comcast and TWC get, which tier 2 and tier 3 operators have lamented for...ever. JB
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