March 7th, 2006

Just Because You Build It, Doesn’t Mean They’ll Come

AT&T and Bellsouth’s announcement over the weekend of their renewed merger has generated a lot of talk around the future of fixed/mobile convergence and what services we may see going forward. A lot has already been written, so just a few thoughts:

- We won’t see cost savings in the very near term. Price cuts through bundled services are likely to come early, but even achieving business side offerings will be a challenge. Cingular is still working on their integration of AT&T Wireless from 2004. The renewed merger adds another layer of complexity and work to the integration.

- Near term offerings are not nearly as exciting as the long term vision. The next 18 to 24 months will likely bring single phone numbers and voicemail boxes to the consumer. Longer term, we’ll see more multi-media applications and content delivery.

- A lot of these services are a possibility today if you’re a tech-savvy consumer and you can put all of the pieces together. A single owner of the network (cellular, DSL/Cable, Wi-Fi, etc.) will make the integration and offering of services to the average consumer easier.

- Just because they build the products, doesn’t mean consumers will buy. Lack of access to the technology typically isn’t the primary inhibitor to adoption. Someone is going to have to convince consumers that it is useful to program your TV from your cell phone.

- There has been a lot of focus on offloading voice traffic from the cellular network to the Wi-Fi network. Likely to happen at home before in public, but not guaranteed. I can see 16 wireless networks from my flat in San Francisco – and this is before n is rolled out – a lot of interference for a voice signal to wade through. Overall, there is a lot list of issues to be worked through. Sure, unlicensed spectrum is cheap. My voice service on my cell phone is a lot more reliable than my wireless network at home.

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