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Shaw Selling QoS for Unaffiliated VoIP Providers
December 2, 2005
Annually, cable trade magazines hand out back-slapping 'operator of the year' accolades. The practice seems little more than passing the same trophy around the MSOs still standing in this consolidated old-buddy industry, which are essentially implementing the same strategies. It's time to shake things up. I cast an enthusiastic vote for Canadian operator Shaw Communications as 'operator of the year' for a minor policy decision they implemented that has major implications for the industry. The policy: enabling their high-speed data customers to purchase enhanced quality-of-service (QoS) for unaffiliated voice over IP (VoIP) services, such as Vonage, Skype and Packet8, for an extra $10 per month. See http://www.shaw.ca/en-ca/ProductsServices/Internet/ServiceEnhancement.htm for details. This is a complete no-brainer, but other MSOs have yet to do it, fearing it will undercut sales of their own VoIP service. This is nothing more than legacy monopolist thinking, of course, trying to run a business via leverage, rather than innovation. What Shaw has correctly realized is that this is really a market segmentation issue. There are some consumers who are never going to buy an MSO's VoIP service, as they prefer alternatives like Vonage. So, why not rake in another $10 a month -- virtually all of it margin -- making what the consumer likes taste even better? Apparently the logic of this is too simple for other operators to understand. If the cable industry is to survive and thrive, this needs to make complete sense to MSOs, and very quickly. VoIP is the first of a long list of multimedia applications coming down the pipe. Rather than trying to squash them -- which is as futile as tying to hold back a tidal wave -- MSOs can generate new revenues offering enhanced experiences in delivering them. This is what they've done for decades with cable TV, of course. By the way, Shaw is offering this QoS feature through a PacketCable Multimedia (PCMM) implementation. They are using service control switches from Ellacoya Networks as the PCMM application manager, and a policy server from an unnamed supplier.
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