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Coming to Terms: 'Telco' Lives On

It turns out that many people in the Light Reading community think a telco by any other name would still smell like a telco.

With extreme apologies to Shakespeare (whatever his name really was), that's how roughly 33% of site followers who answered Light Reading's latest community poll question feel. The poll taken by about 880 people, asked, "Should we put the label 'telco' to rest once and for all?" The most popular answers suggest that our readers believe changing the name won't change how we think of those companies we typically identify as telcos. (See What's in a Name?.)

Although AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ), BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA) and the like most certainly would blanch at being described as "the telephone company" (we'll give you youngsters a minute to Google "telephone"), we have to admit that "telco" is still a term you see and hear quite often at industry gatherings and in Light Reading stories (so maybe it's our fault.) Still, networks and the business plans that leverage them have changed so much that most so-called telcos now provide an incredibly wide range of services, quite a few of them not voice-centric.

Many of those services, though not all, still revolve around communications in some way, so it's no surprise that about 28% of poll takers believe CSP, or communications service provider, would be a much better label. Although, at least one dear reader pointed out that would mean replacing an actual word (well, it's sort of a mash-up word) with yet another acronym.

Among other answers, more than 19% said the telco label should not be retired because there's nothing wrong with it, while more than 16% went with the opposite extreme -- that it should definitely be changed because it's terribly outdated. Finally, about 2.5% of voters believe the term should be retired for some completely new label, though very few gave suggestions what that label should be.


Want to know more about the packet optical sector? Check out our dedicated packet optical content channel right here on Light Reading.


What's perhaps most interesting overall is that given three essentially affirmative answers (in other words, yes, let's retire the telco label) and two negative answers (no, let's keep using it), a little over 53% don't have a problem with a term that almost 47% of us think is a bit long in the tooth. Talking "telco" is a pretty divisive topic.

— Dan O'Shea, Managing Editor, Light Reading

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Kevin Mitchell 9/23/2015 | 10:45:31 AM
Re: Telco is useful for now! Dan, what's the real question? What do we call all operators/service providers? Or what do we call the specific segment that was once a pure telephone company?


If the former, then CSP or network operator can work. If the latter, I still prefer telco for all that context!
jdfoss 9/22/2015 | 10:06:13 AM
Re: Heralding the CODSP Telco = (Tele)Comms provider - what's wrong with that?

What I _do_ object to is the use of the word "telco" to mean a teleconference / skype, etc.

 

jdf
danielcawrey 9/19/2015 | 3:07:32 PM
Re: Terms and condition Is it not still telecommunications? I think it is. You could label it CSP or whatever else, but I don't see much of a need.

Telco is more of an internal business name for things, it's not really marketing jargon. So I don't really see a reason for changing the term. 
futurephil 9/18/2015 | 6:37:26 PM
Re: Telco is useful for now! I like "network operator." It describes telco, cable and wireless service providers and, importantly, doesn't exclude the massive Internet companies, data centers and other enterprises that also offer communications services of all kinds.

They all operate networks. They may not necessarily own the fiber in the ground, but they are network operators.

 
Mitch Wagner 9/18/2015 | 4:26:13 PM
Re: Telco is useful for now! I like to say that Light Reading serves communications service providers – the companies formerly known as telcos and cable companies. 
Kevin Mitchell 9/18/2015 | 2:49:04 PM
Re: Telco is useful for now! There are 1000+ telcos in the US alone. I am not saying that telco is catch-all for every service provider. Telco is a specific type.

You label a provider a telco, we can generally know what they are dealing with (PSTN sunset, aging TDM voice infrastructure, FTTH launch, etc.). That's not the case for a cable guy (e.g, video rev disappearing, moving into business services) or WISP.  Under the umbrella of CSP, they all look the same and I don't know the issues.

Granted the higher up the stack to "tier 1" land you go and these issues become less relevant and they do look more alike with broad portfolios.

But hey, this is a marketing guy speaking. I like segmentation!
mendyk 9/18/2015 | 2:36:05 PM
Re: Telco is useful for now! Given that the majority of companies in this industry do not have a history or persona that's described by the word "telco," how does that make the word useful? And how does that make it better than the detested CSP, which is more inclusive and more representative of the path that just about every one of these companies is now taking?
cnwedit 9/18/2015 | 11:43:20 AM
Re: Telco is useful for now! I don't think telco is useful other than it's easy to say and type. And I don't include the competitive service providers among the "telcos" for the most part.

I much prefer CSP because it covers the variety of services that are providing including cloud. But mostly because it makes my life easier, and I'm all about the easy life. 
Kevin Mitchell 9/18/2015 | 10:54:34 AM
Telco is useful for now! While the term telcos reflects just one portion (and usually a declining portion) of its business, it reflects the history and a persona of the company. It's not perfect and I have no better suggestion. But, it's also useful to me.

Telco does mix competitive "new comers" (those born post 96 act) and companies that have served communities for decades or a century plus.

I've always detested CSP as a term. It's bland and suffers, like telco, from being focused on one piece of the business (here telephone service has evolved to broader communications). Plus everyone is then a CSP and doesn't tell you their roots or paint a picture of what they do or want to do. You'd still need a modifier; for instance, cable CSP, wireless CSP, and former POTS CSP.

In one view, that's where we are headed. All the providers will look the same with web-scale guts and a small or large portfolio of cloud delivered services. At some point that historical context may not matter.

There are multiple ways to look at it, of course. What xSP customers and the companies may call them will have a use for making sense of the market, but that may not work for vendors and marketers.
mendyk 9/18/2015 | 10:45:52 AM
Re: Mouthfuls I can point to at least one stark example of how a "mouthful" replaced a shorter term that fell out of favor as outdated and pejorative. Sometimes we need to raise the bar on our language and our willingness to use more syllables -- this year's political "debates" notwithstanding.
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