Excite@Home Corp. is rapidly putting together a strategic
agenda that looks beyond the @Home Network service's exclusionary roots in cable to
an environment where wireless and digital-subscriber-line access are part of the broadband
In one demonstration of the strategic shift occasioned by
At Home Corp.'s merger with Excite Inc., the company is close to rolling out a
broadband-enhanced version of Excite's portal service that makes use of the @Home
backbone to provide ready access to Excite content no matter what service provider is
At the same time, the company is actively pursuing deals
with wireless carriers in hopes of being able to offer customers anytime-anywhere
"We will soon be rolling out our first integrated
broadband version of Excite," Excite@Home chief technology officer Milo Medin said.
"Our goal is to try to build a unified broadband experience."
The spreading reach of Excite@Home's broadband
services and the opening of wireless affiliations are responses to the same shifting
online scenario that has stirred the debate in cable over how to proceed with deals
involving other high-speed-data service providers, such as America Online Inc.
But whether that means Excite@Home is ready to renegotiate
the terms of its exclusivity agreements with its cable affiliates remains to be seen.
"I think it's in the best interest of the cable
industry to be able to do a deal with AOL, but being harnessed to @Home has prevented that
from happening," Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. senior media analyst Tom Wolzien
said. "So far, @Home's management doesn't appear to recognize that
it's playing in a larger sandbox when it comes to its arrangements with cable
A cable executive at an MSO affiliate of Excite@Home
expressed surprise at the service provider's unfolding broadband strategy. "This
is the first we've heard about it, but it doesn't sound to me like it's in
the spirit of their stand on exclusivity in their dealings with us," the executive
said, speaking on background.
Customers with high-speed-access capabilities would be able
to get to much of the same content through the Excite broadband portal that they can
access via @Home. "You may see caches [files stored on local servers] with localized
content in the @Home experience that are not available through Excite. But otherwise, it
will be fairly integrated," Medin said.
Key to making an ubiquitous service possible is the
nationwide broadband infrastructure Excite@Home has been building, using high-speed fiber
lines leased from AT&T Corp. in conjunction with regional data centers equipped with
advanced routers and servers.
By funneling the Excite broadband content through this
distribution system, the company will be in a position to charge Internet-service
providers for the content or to make the Excite portion available to anybody with enough
bandwidth to receive what's available through the broadband portal.
Officials declined to discuss what business strategies may
evolve. But they made it clear that expanding the advertising base for broadband content
via the Excite portal is a key part of the business rationale.
"Most of the users accessing Excite are on dial-up, so
they can't be counted as part of the advertising base for broadband content, but
there will be a benefit on the advertising side," Medin said.
On another front, the company is talking with AT&T
Wireless and other wireless carriers in hopes of striking deals that would allow @Home
providers to offer a personalized version via wireless devices.
A customer who takes such a service would be able to access
e-mail, the Internet and other services and applications through an @Home account from
mobile devices, Medin said.
Excite@Home cut a deal last month with AirFlash.com Inc. to
work on a wireless service that marries the two entities' content.
"Our relationship with AirFlash will accelerate our
ability to partner quickly and effectively with wireless carriers to bring the best of the
Web to their customers," Excite@Home senior vice president for content Joe Kraus
Customers of carriers that offer this service will be able
to gain access to their personalized Excite Web pages, as well as to Excite@Home
applications that are tailored for the low-bandwidth access capabilities of mobile
In the future, such applications will expand from the
pagerlike messaging level to more broadbandlike features as wireless carriers move to
next-generation platforms, Medin said.
"What we're doing in the pilot project may not be
what we do when 3G [the third-generation wireless system] comes along," he added.
The wireless connection would put Excite@Home in the
position of being able to offer something more than a fixed, fast-access service, thereby
differentiating its service from what's available from other service providers, Medin
"If you're a customer who has an integrated
service, where all of your personalized account information is accessible to you wherever
you are, you're not likely to throw away your cable modem when somebody offers you a
DSL service," he said.