NEW YORK -- The Future of Cable Business Services -- It's a key tenet of the industry: cable companies are regional by definition. That's what makes cable operators so collegial, but it's also part of what's held them back in the commercial sector, and why the industry is now hoping to break its regional bonds.
Light Reading has learned that some of the top US cable operators are meeting in Philadelphia this week to discuss collaborating on a national "cable first" push into enterprise services. The news follows Comcast's own enterprise service launch in September, and builds on some existing wholesaling partnerships that the big MSOs have put together to serve larger business customers. (See Comcast Business Targets Fortune 1000.)
However, a concerted effort would mark a major shift in strategy for the industry, upgrading cable companies from largely local ankle-biters to a serious competitive threat in enterprise telecom.
Comcast Business VP & GM of Enterprise Solutions Glenn Katz explained at the Light Reading Future of Cable Business Services event that the national cable business services effort has support from top industry executives. According to Katz, Comcast has already initiated conversations "at the highest level with the major MSOs."
He added, "We've already had several discussions with them at the C-level. And now that's dropped down to some working groups. And we're literally having our first major working group session tomorrow [Wednesday] and Thursday, in Philadelphia. So some of the major MSOs are coming in and we're outlining our goals and objectives. We know what they are. And now we're trying to go to the next level. And eventually we'll have teams. CableLabs will be involved, working with us on how to actually create what I'll call a better customer experience today, before SDN and NFV."
Katz was referring to software defined networking and network functions virtualization, the twin pillars of New IP technology that should vastly simplify the collaborative process in supporting enterprise services delivered across multiple network footprints. However, Katz was also acknowledging that a complete shift to virtualized infrastructure will take several years. And in the meantime, cable companies need an immediate strategy for attacking the enterprise market and chipping away at telco dominance there.
The prize for winning more of the enterprise market is huge. Katz said the large enterprise sector is worth up to $15 billion in the US, and today, cable operators own less than 1% of the whole. Cable companies are also counting on significant revenue growth from businesses services in order to offset video declines and the potential slowing of growth in the residential broadband market. (See Moffett: Business Services Critical to Cable Growth.)
As for who is actually participating in the national cable effort, Katz said of Comcast, "We're being the lead. We're hosting it. We're providing dinner. But in the end, we really want to have it not as a Comcast initiative. We want to have it as an MSO industry initiative."
To that end, Katz said representatives from the seven largest cable operators are part of the meetings in Philadelphia this week. By size, the top seven operators are Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC), Charter Communications Inc. , Cox Communications Inc. , Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC), Bright House Networks and Suddenlink Communications .
More to come as this story unfolds.
— Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, Light Reading