Changes in telecommunications are happening so quickly that navigating the market is beginning to feel a bit like driving through a small town on the interstate: If you blink, youll miss it.
Interactive Week set out to get a lay of the service provider land back in February. The idea was to figure out who the biggest carriers were in 10 categories and then ask network managers how each company rated in terms of service reliability. We considered which categories to include: Building local exchange carriers (BLECs) are dead, we said; broadband fixed wireless is the next great thing. There arent enough last-mile providers to come up with a reasonable sample, we opined.
Now, four months later, the BLECs turn out to be more tenacious than we thought, and two of the fixed wireless companies have marched into bankruptcy. Last-mile providers are more important than ever as the DSL companies tumble into the market morass.
How could we have missed it?
Well, we were probably standing slack-jawed in the office watching AT&T, British Telecommunications and WorldCom unwind themselves.
Say, wasnt it just a couple of years ago that we were watching C. Michael Armstrong, Amos Hostetter and John Malone use stunning sums of money to nail together the biggest communications conglomerate on earth? Watching Bernie Ebbers make takeovers of companies way bigger than his own hang together? Seeing BT seed our continent and Europe with investments?
Or maybe we were too busy being dead sure that NTT DoCoMo would have its feature-studded third-generation wireless network up and running this month, and were mulling its implications for the U.S. market. Perhaps we were blinded by the certainty that Hughes Electronics was going to let its profitable daughter — DirecTV — wed Rupert Murdochs News Corp., without interference from that troublemaking suitor and competitor EchoStar Communications.
Im encouraged by hints of developments slowly emerging from this cycle of corporate reinvention and market uncertainty. That AT&T bought the assets of a failed DSL company and swept up a DSL-expert executive to run its consumer services division may mean a few more choices on the telecom menu. That the assets of one bankrupt broadband fixed wireless carrier and a bankrupt competitive carrier are being commingled could signal the emergence of a new last-mile provider. But who really knows?
What I am certain of, though, is that for the last half of the year, my eyes will be wide open.
Communications Editor Dana Coffield knows a little about a lot of things, ranging from house moving to optical networking. She joined Interactive Week from the Rocky Mountain News, where she spent three years on the business desk, primarily shepherding award-winning telecommunications and technology coverage. She can be reached at [email protected]