I had a chance to eat breakfast this morning with Metaswitch CEO Kevin DeNuccio (pictured) and CTO Chris Mairs as well as some attendees and it was great to hear how much money is being spent by utilities to provide ultra-fast FTTH and smart grid applications. The good news is smart meters are slowly making their way to customer sites as the smart grid gets built out. In addition, DeNuccio told me after a time period with uncertainty the broadband stimulus dollars are starting to flow by the hundreds of millions to some of the carriers at the event.
The panel I spoke on Define Your Decade went pretty well from what I gathered - we talked about many of the future trends in the market such as cloud, social networking, UC and video. I was very surprised that 10% or less of the carriers in the audience were planning on adopting any of the above.
Still, it seems clear from discussions I had with equipment companies and vendors in the industry that the carrier market will continue to rapidly evolve and providers need to get involved in the app store, advertising and media businesses. They must change to survive and embracing new technologies is a crucial part of this evolution.
It takes investment, vision, a strong stomach and solid relationships with vendors to make it through to the other side of this chasm.
While at the show I had a chance to sit down with Chicky Leclair, Technical Director of Program Implementation, AT&T Labs where I got to learn about how his division is responsible for supplying branded voicemail to the AT&T groups including the PSTN, enterprise, wholesale and U-Verse.
AT&T has been working with Metaswitch since the mid-nineties (it wasn't called Metaswitch then) and two years ago they did what they called a scorched-earth review of 18 suppliers and found Metaswitch to be the best choice among all the voicemail equipment providers they tested. As a result, they are slowly moving all of their wireline voicemail and more to Metaswitch while Alcatel-Lucent is supplying the wireless business voicemail.
Leclair mentioned that he has been working at AT&T for 11 years and 20 years prior he was in the Air Force. He said in his experience, Metaswitch is very unique in its support of customers. He went on to say they have the agility to develop and deliver and can add new feature functionality in as little as 2 weeks. Other thoughts he shared - sometimes equipment vendors and carriers have a “different perspective on uses of a feature” and often Metaswitch will close the gap at no cost.
He continued that other vendors make you pay for change – “It works as designed,” is what they say. He closed by explaining, “Metaswitch is brutally honest and they listen,” and if a feature change will cost them a good deal of money they will say so and pass the cost along.
I decided to spend time with AT&T because they are an atypical customer for Metaswitch who generally focuses on much smaller carriers. Many of the rural telcos I spoke with at the event had great things to say about Metaswitch but they generally aren’t courted by every equipment provider on the planet so they have a narrower view as they have less options. The AT&T testimonial is quite solid and should make Metaswitch employees proud.
While in Orlando, FL for the show I went to Disney’s Magic Kingdom and I ended up spending over $550 to get four people into the park for the day and the nighttime Halloween party. On top of that I spent a ton more on meals, balloons, etc. And as I walked from ride to ride, the value of content presented itself in all its glory. Every Disney character was on display with matching merchandising with mugs, stuffed toys, glasses, pins and even ice cream which come in shapes you never imagined.
And as I close out my trip to Florida I can’t help but remind carriers regardless of size that differentiated content may be one of the few items besides precious metals which resist margin compression and price deflation. And as carriers evolve their networks and add wireless options, FMC, video, UC and social networking, they should keep this important point in mind.
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