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There is Enough Broadband Competition


Rich Tehrani

I get the general sense that our government believes we already have enough broadband competition. I think that the FCC believes service providers should be allowed to charge anyone and everyone who uses their pipes whatever they need in order to pay for the maintenance and further build-out of their networks.

We have witnessed the slow dissolution of the CLEC market in the past years; we have seen the slow and steady decrease of ILECs; and we have just about reassembled the former AT&T (quote - news - alerts).

Many taking this side of the argument will point out that cable and VoIP (define - news -alerts) companies are generating sufficient competition along with wireless, broadband over power line, and satellite.

In the late nineties, we thought the market would be best served with thousands of CLECs serving customers. That was the environment the government set up. Now it seems that the FCC is happy with just a handful of strong competitors.

Many have seen me quoted in such newspapers as The New York Times as a proponent of net neutrality, but lets face it, the lobbyists with the Ferraris work for the phone companies.

In addition, it is fairly obvious that current FCC Chairman, Kevin Martin, has little or no interest in net neutrality. The chairman is well connected with the Bush administration, which pretty much cements the fact that net neutrality arguments are a big waste of time. You may as well use the effort for a worthy cause, like donating time to a charity or helping underprivileged children, because from where I sit, Chairman Martins mind is pretty much made up.

This, of course, is just one persons opinion but I have heard the chairman speak and have been researching the matter for quite some time.

Ours is a country based on freedom, which we spread around the world. But we will soon lose some of this freedom at least on the Internet. We may not be able to use applications, like Skype, without paying extra for them; still, this would be better than the situation in China, for example, where the practice (using Skype) has been banned or, to put it nicely, put on hold. Furthermore, unless service providers get an extra fee, videos streamed on the Internet may not be of very high quality. In general, we can expect service providers to provide inferior Internet service unless they are paid a premium by the customer, the content provider, or both.

Once we accept these certainties, the question becomes how to make money in such a new world. If you think the model of charging $15 per month for VoIP and raking in cash is the future of your VoIP company, you may as well plan to start passing out the pink slips by New Years Eve.

This concept wont work; the only way to differentiate yourself is to provide different offerings. Explore higher quality VoIP, surround sound VoIP, stereophonic VoIP, videophones, collaboration products, dual mode phones, and so on. You can partner with anti-spam or security companies to offer a bundle of secure voice and Web surfing.

The one thing you need to stop doing is going head-to-head with Vonage. This is a nice business model, but cant last forever. Survey your customers. Hold focus groups. What do your customers want? Do everything you can to figure out where the money will be tomorrow.

Here is a simple idea worth hundreds of millions, in my opinion. Offer a wake up service hosted by celebrities. How many teenagers would pay $.25 per day to be woken up by Justin Timberlake or Britney Spears? How about a service that wakes you with an MMS message containing a Paris Hilton photo? You can even choose the rating.

Design an AJAX-based application to allow full call control and a toolbar that sits in IE and Outlook. Make your services stickier and stickier.

Explore enhanced 911, where any calls to 911 are recorded and sent via e-mail to loved ones. Integrate 911 with video cameras in the home, so emergency workers can see what is happening, in case those three digits are dialed.

Get creative. If one more service provider tells me they are better than Vonage (news - alerts) because they are cheaper, I may scream. If you have to price lower than Vonage to make sales, you have a cheap phone service, and customers dont want a cheap phone service to carry their 911 calls. As I have asked before, would you rather have the ambulance taking you to the hospital made by Honda or Yugo? Which would you send your kids in?

On to VoIP Peering
Everywhere I turn, people remind me that I declared 2006 the Year of VoIP Peering. At least, it seems that everyone agrees. The numbers I am seeing coming out of the VPF, for example, are staggering. The total number of minutes carried each year seems to grow exponentially on their peering network.

In addition, there are rumors that AT&T will join the VPF. The announcement was not made formally, but my sources tell me there is a good chance it will happen. Incidentally, I met some people from AT&T after my last keynote at the Voice Peering Forum in New York, and I wouldnt be surprised to see them join.

If this announcement happens, I will be absolutely correct and we will see even more rapid acceleration of VoIP peering in the world. If it doesnt happen the market will still grow just a bit more slowly. So far, this is still the Year of VoIP Peering. I will be keynoting the next Voice Peering Forum event in Miami around the same day this magazine mails.

The Problem with TV
Most business magazines will tell you the phone companies will have a tough time unseating the cable companies when it comes to TV transmission. Here is why every one of those magazines and newspapers is wrong: HDTV selection stinks today. Apparently, I spent a fortune for a 60 HDTV so I could watch but a handful of channels on it.

Most of what I watch is not HDTV and I either can have a black square around what I view or choose to stretch the picture to fill the whole screen. Every actor gains 20 pounds if I use the latter approach, and I am sick and tired of paying more for a TV that, most of the time, makes my TV viewing experience worse.

The phone companies should supply 50 HD channels, or even more. If they did that, I would switch to IPTV tomorrow and never look back. I understand fully that, without HD content, this isnt possible, but Hollywood and content providers need to realize that HDTV will be the next big thing for the industry. They need to start putting out the programming. There certainly is an audience for it. The question is, how much more will people pay for more HDTV programming. I would say $20$25 per month about $1 per HD channel per month is painless if you get another 2030 HD channels. Hopefully, this can be a profitable idea for the phone companies.

Wireless Disruption
I think this year will see serious wireless disruption. In my life, I have witnessed many a technology look to replace Ethernet only to find out that Ethernet was an evolving standard that kept changing with the times.

So, instead of replacing Ethernet, we just kept upgrading it. No matter what new technology came onto the scene, it never gained traction.

History repeats itself and, if you picture WiFi as the wireless equivalent of Ethernet, then you can figure the technology will keep evolving as well to fight off the replacement technologies.

In this case, I think WiMAX may be the technology that gets hurt by WiFi. Technology already exists to extend the reach of WiFi, but I anticipate this will be the year where we see a technology emerge that extends the range of WiFi in such ways that WiMAX loses its edge in many applications. Mesh networking may be this technology, but I imagine that WiFis range can be extended to a few miles without too much effort, and mesh networks, coupled with long-range WiFi might eliminate the need for WiMAX in areas where it is feasible to pepper your access points.

State of the Industry
I have been on a trade show tour recently and I cant tell you how excited I am to have chosen the VoIP industry as my home. There are more new products and innovations being announced daily and, everywhere you look, there is boundless optimism. More importantly, were seeing real sales and profit from not only the vendors to the VoIP market, but the customers themselves.

I am seeing a revival in the contact center industry as well and companies like Mitel and Inter-Tel are announcing new contact center initiatives. These companies werent traditionally entrenched call center players, but they are increasingly getting into the space.

In addition, IMS is taking off. I recently attended an IMS Forum meeting and it is exciting to see the level of optimism that exists in this space. Some of the companies to watch for in IMS are Sonus, Nokia, and Nortel, who are all jockeying for leadership position.

Where Does The TMC Community Meet?
If you have a calendar handy, please mark down these events right now, as you wont want to miss them. Exhibitors and attendees keep telling me that TMC events are the place to go if you are looking to purchase products and services, and vendors tell me they move more product on the show floor of TMC events than any other. I expect this trend to continue forever; TMC events have always been about the best ROI. Our shows help companies make purchasing decisions in an unbiased and objective fashion. Exhibitors and attendees compliment TMC events continuously and we salute you all for being part of the TMC communications community!

VoIP Demo ( will take place August 810, 2006 at the Hyatt Regency in Santa Clara, CA. It will be a unique event in the world of IP communications. The highlight of the show will be live onstage demos of the industrys best products. In addition, exhibitors can exhibit in turnkey pedestals if they like.

You will be able to come to one event and see all the best products and services on the market. We expect many analysts and a heavy showing from the financial community. We have further teamed with Robins Consulting Group to put on the worlds first IP Communications Business Summit. This event will bring the financial community and those looking to acquire with those looking to be acquired or to receive investment. For more information on being a part of this exciting new event, please contact Robins Consulting Group at 718-548-7245 or e-mail [email protected].

This is the first event of its kind, and is sorely needed to ensure that the best and brightest in our industry have access to the resources they need to grow. And the financial community can come together under a single roof to quickly and easily see the best companies in which to invest.

The above event will take place on the same dates and location as the VoIP Developer Conference (, the worlds only event focused on IP Communications Development. Avaya, Intel, and Texas Instruments are a few notable sponsors of this event and we are thrilled to be putting on the third successful iteration of this show.

I was just in San Diego and had a chance to see the exhibit hall for the upcoming Internet Telephony Conference & EXPO, October 1013, 2006. The San Diego Convention Center is an impressive facility and I am astounded by all there is to do in San Diego within walking distance of the convention center.

In addition to this event, we will be co-locating the worlds first IMS Expo in San Diego. Expect it to be very well attended.

IT EXPO has always been the only show in the world to devote a full day to education on VoIP peering. We have just completed three successful VoIP Peering Summits in a row. At the next IT EXPO, we will have a VoIP peering event, which will be much bigger than the traditional peering summits we have offered in the past. We will be teaming with the VPF and other peering vendors to educate you on this topic like never before. Please check my blog frequently at for details.

We will also be launching Call Center 2.0 at this show. This event will focus on the next generation in contact center technology from IP contact centers to VoIP recording and more. There has never been a call center event like it! IT

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