Pioneering TelcoTV Service Laid to Rest

12:05 PM -- Qwest Communications International Inc. (NYSE: Q) is phasing out ChoiceTV, and offering to convert existing customers to their DirecTV Group Inc. (NYSE: DTV) resale product. ChoiceTV was a little known Qwest offering, but is a big part of telco TV history. It was launched by Qwest in 1998 and is arguably the first true commercial deployment of telco TV in the U.S. Their original telco TV platform was built on ATM, unlike the IP plays of today, and utilized VDSL. The deployments were limited to one market in Arizona and an additional smaller one in Colorado, and at their peak had close to 50K subscribers.

Both Qwest and their technology partner at the time, Next Level Communications, were seen as true pioneers in the telco TV landscape. Next Level was eventually purchased (and gutted) by Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT). There are still quite a few early telco TV service providers who have the Next Level platform today. Unfortunately for them, Motorola discontinued support of that product line, so they’ve had to migrate to a new one.

It is somewhat ironic that among the baby bells, Qwest was the real innovator in telco TV. Predecessors to today’s AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) and Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) conglomerates were both testing telco TV platforms around (or even prior to) the time of Qwest’s first deployment. But it was Qwest who actually pulled the trigger first on a true commercial deployment. Hundreds of smaller independent telcos quickly followed Qwest, before the arrival of the today’s telco TV leaders, AT&T and Verizon. Like many technology innovators, maybe Qwest was a little ahead of their time, and suffered for it. For the time being, they’ve put their telco TV legacy to rest, allowing others to get all the glory. Do they know something everyone else doesn’t?

— Bernardin Arnason, Managing Partner, Pivot Group , and Chairman, TelcoTV 2008
Interested in learning more on this topic? Then come to TelcoTV 2008, a conference and expo that will examine the convergence of communications and entertainment, and its impact on service providers from across the globe, to be staged in Anaheim, Calif., November 11-13. For more information, or to register, click here.

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