CTAM Live: Looking Into Cable’s Wireless Future

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BOSTON -- Cable operators should be thinking about cutting the cord for all their services -- delivering not just voice but also video and data wirelessly, said Mike Lee, chief strategy officer of Canada’s Rogers Communications.

With the next generation of multiplay services, “the network itself is going to ‘disappear,’” he said. “Services will be delivered across all types of networks. You as a consumer won’t care how it got to you.”

Lee described Rogers’ experiences in marketing a four-product bundle, speaking Tuesday on the CTAM Summit ’08 general session panel, “Phone + Mobile + Internet + TV – Does It Add Up?” (For more Summit coverage, click here.)

He said between 65% and 75% of mobile phone calls are made when a customer is within reach of a wireline phone, which indicates consumers place a premium on the convenience of a wireless service.

“Wireless -- mobile -- definitely has a separate value from the other products we’re talking about,” said Lee. “We think that’s going to bridge to data and video as well.”

Sanford Bernstein senior analyst Craig Moffett, who moderated the session, noted that major U.S. cable operators are on the brink of bringing their wireless strategies to market, to offer a fourth major service to their portfolios.

Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks are teaming up with Sprint and Clearwire on WiMax, while Cox Communications plans to debut mobile phone service in 2009 and Cablevision Systems has embarked on a Wi-Fi strategy.

Rogers, both the largest wireless provider and MSO in Canada, in early 2000 introduce a triple-play of video, data and mobile and in 2006 launched wireline home phone.

“You clearly see more benefits, the more products you sell,” Lee said, including decreased churn rate. “We have much better penetration [with mobile phone] in markets where we have cable. There are definitely benefits to wireless being offered as part of an overall cable offering.”

The challenge with mobile, Lee said, is taking a very personal product with a high degree of personalization and integrating that with the other products.

“It is not easy,” Lee said. “Operationally it’s very complex. It’s a lot of process work and IT [information technology] work.” One strategy Rogers has adopted: pushing family plans, to get a household to adopt a single mobile-phone package that bridges multiple handsets so it matches up on the “home” side of the business.

Also speaking on the panel were two executives from telcos overseas, Hong Kong’s PCCW and France Telecom.

Jean-Marc Harion, France Telecom’s North America vice president of business development  said TV was an essential part of any multiplay bundle, noting that 42% of new Orange DSL subscribers choose Orange IPTV service -- “that’s been a dramatic change,” he said.

In Hong Kong, PCCW has been able to differentiate its bundle by offering a la carte channels, as well as exclusive content -- such as Barclays Premier League soccer -- available to customers on TV, broadband and mobile phones, said chief technology officer Paul Berriman.

“Six years ago we made a decision that we couldn’t rely on revenue from access, so we had to move toward content services. That’s where we see our future growth,” Berriman said.

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