Optical/IP Networks

Blind Faith

4:20 PM -- Why do we still have unreasoning faith in the telcos to get it right when it comes to converged services for the home and business?

That's what I wondered today at the end of the panel I moderated at the Triple Play and IP Communications Summit, at the Harvard Club in Manhattan (I've never seen so much scarlet carpet and so many boars' heads, in one place in my life). We spent almost an hour discussing the escalating competition between the cable companies (or MSOs, in the jargon, for "multiple system operators"), the telcos and wireless carriers, and outliers like Google. Much of the arguments centered on the baggage the telcos bring to this fight, including historically slow rates of innovation, unfamiliarity with the content production and distribution business, and high costs of infrastructure build-out.

And then I asked for a vote on who would be the eventual triple-play winner, and two of the three panelists (including the very sharp Rick Thompson, a Heavy Reading analyst), said "Verizon."

Now, granted, Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) is leagues ahead of its carrier rivals with its unfortunately named "FiOS" (fiber-optic service). But according to news reports, in some local markets where it plans to go head-to-head with the cable guys, like Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), it's saying fiber-to-the-home will take another five years.

Five years. That's 2011. The world will change several times between now and then.

I don't know -- this faith that Verizon and its telco peers will eventually figure it all out seems misplaced to me. As one attendee said to me over breakfast, "I refuse to get my cable from Verizon."

— Richard Martin, Senior Editor, Unstrung

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