MIAMI -- What was once described as a national "cable first" initiative to unite major operator efforts to court enterprise customers is actually just an effort to automate the processes by which those companies order services from one another, to reach customers outside their regional footprint, according to two of the participating companies.
Speaking here Wednesday at the Metro Connect event, executives from Charter Communications and Cox Communications said meetings hosted by Comcast Corp. in December weren't ever designed to create a national cable footprint by cobbling together the regional cable operations. (See LR Cable Daily Test Dec 2.)
"I think that got a bit overblown," said Don Detampel, EVP of technology and president of Commercial Services for Charter Communications Inc. , who attended the meeting hosted by Comcast in Philadelphia.
Cable operators have been doing what's called "Type II" business, or the reselling of their access lines to other carriers under FCC rules for unbundling access, for some time, he added. "Comcast was probably a little bit later to the game in the enterprise space and their intent was to get the Type II process between the companies working more smoothly."
Most incumbent telcos and competitive carriers have automated their processes to make it easier for companies to order Type II circuits, he added. The cable initiative is intended to make the cable processes more efficient through automation and the meeting was designed to agree on how to best do that.
Jeremy Bye, VP at Cox Communications Inc. , confirmed Detampel's assessment, adding that cable operators have trailed the industry in automating their processes and need to do more. But any effort in that area wouldn't just be aimed at other cable operators, he added. "It is meant to be very inclusive, so other large [network operators] would be part of that effort as well."
Bye also mentioned the possibility that a cable operator could address the enterprise market by becoming a service aggregator of some type -- whether that is aggregating ordering and billing of services regardless of who is providing the underlying infrastructure -- as Granite Telecommunications LLC does today on a national basis.
Their comments came at the end of a panel discussion on cable's increased role in the metro networking space, as it steps up its business services game. While not directly addressing the issue of whether cable companies are honoring a longstanding "gentlemen's agreement" to stay within their regional footprint and not compete with each other, the cable executives did say that they don't often find logic in spending capex dollars to overbuild facilities outside their regions, but that the situation could change.
"It's easier to leverage existing operating models like Type II, that are not relative to capital, to reach those out-of-market connections," said Thane Storck, group VP of Carrier Services for Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC). One exception to that might be fiber deployments to support cell towers or small cells at the periphery of a specific cable footprint.
The cable operators also said they didn't expect to enter the dark fiber market any time soon. Detampel says that would require a major overhaul of Charter's existing fiber networks to support the markets demanding dark fiber such as the CRAN, or consolidated radio access network, market. As part of the TWC merger process, Charter is committing $2.5 billion to reaching new commercial customers with fiber and it's unlikely the company would go further in committing capital to overhaul existing fiber routes, he said.
— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading