Cable-CLEC M&A, Net Neutrality on Tap for 2010

The telecom industry faces a number of changes in 2010, and we’re trying trying to throw our arms around what it all means with a series of Q&As with industry analysts. This week, we spoke with Brian Washburn, research director of network services at Current Analysis, to get his take on the coming trends. Here, in an edited transcript, are some major predictions Washburn is making for the Year of the Tiger.

1. Broadband Stimulus Activity

The broadband stimulus – and that’s going to be a morass if things continue going the way they are. And this does impact CLECs even though they tend to be focused on metro areas and higher-end business services. The stimulus could launch a set of complementary businesses that’s almost like having a whole new class of carriers out there with facilities-based networks. The flip side is some companies, like independent LECs and wireless providers that play in metro spaces, may use money that was meant to go to rural projects for business services. If they get this government funding, they’ll build the obligatory bits. But you betcha they’re going to go right over to the nearest metro and adjacent markets with their own money to compete in the higher-revenue stuff and to supplement the lower-value opportunities that the government is trying to encourage.

Another thing is, there’s a big stink brewing among incumbent carriers that didn’t participate in the stimulus, and this is the point where this thing can really get bogged down in 2010. It’s usually the incumbent that knows where the DSLAMs are and central offices and who can get services. Competitors are saying, ‘We’d like to go to Dry Gulch, Utah,’ for example, and whoever’s the incumbent in Dry Gulch says, ‘No, we serve this area.’ How do you resolve that? And could it end up in the courts? Possibly. That leaves me to suspect that satellite companies will end up being stronger players in the awards because they tend to be less controversial to the incumbent carriers and they don’t really have to prove that any one market is unserved or underserved because they serve all of North America.

2. Teaming With Google, Etc.

Another area we’ve been watching is with Google and Microsoft and Skype. We’ve seen, for instance, NuVox teaming for Google Apps and Microsoft offering its hosted services, trying to find telcos and cable operators that are going to resell them. Those are some areas where CLECs can get into hosted e-mail, the hosted Web and high-end applications business without having a lot of investment, and it has the Google or Microsoft name behind it.

Skype is sort of a wild card out there. There are already a bunch of low-end, best-effort types of VoIP services out there but Skype is a hugely recognized name. It’s possible it can suck a lot of voice money out of the system.

To read more of Washburn’s predictions in the full, in-depth article on our sister publication, xchange, click here or on the source link below.

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