The BroadbandVision conference in Las Vegas this week offered network operators the opportunity to share business tips with one another and to learn about new business and technology developments heading their way.
The event brought together large and small broadband service providers, with a wide range of stakeholders, including Windstream CEO Jeff Gardner, NTCA – The Rural Broadband Association CEO Shirley Bloomfield, Verizon Manager of Business Development Adam Lippman and others taking the stage to share their advice and knowledge. Breakout sessions were organized into tracks on video and entertainment, cloud and enterprise and broadband, enabling attendees to focus on specific areas of interests.
The opportunity to gain advice from other service providers occurred both formally in planned presentations and informally during numerous networking opportunities. Three of the best pieces of advice I heard came from Jeff Kohler, co-founder and chief development officer for broadband wireless service provider JAB Wireless; Jeremy Graves, a principal with marketing and training agency Pivot Group; and Roku General Manager Steve Shannon.
- What has worked for Kohler: One third of JAB Wireless customers sign up for managed router service, which not only brings in additional revenue and lowers acquisition costs – it also reduces service calls.
- Graves’ advice: “Truck rolls are OK as long as [technicians] will do something other than fix the problem.” Technicians should be taught to mention that the company offers home security or other services as part of a service call. “Building relationships is what’s key,” said Graves.
- TV Everywhere Benefits Quantified: The idea of giving customers the ability to watch TV on a range of devices, known as TV Everywhere, may sound like a good idea. But Shannon offered some research data from Viacom quantifying its benefits. More than 90% of respondents (93%) were less likely to churn, while 64% would watch more TV.
A Glimpse of What’s to Come
Among those offering up their vision of the future at Broadband Vision were Bill Gerski, vice president of broadband equipment manufacturer Huawei Technologies; NISC CEO Vern Dosch; and Rouzbeh Yassini, executive director of the University of New Hampshire’s Broadband Center of Excellence. Shannon and Lippman also had something to say about what’s to come.
- Gerski’s vision of the future took the form of a cautionary tale. He believes that if the AT&T and DirecTV merger goes through, the two companies will aggressively pursue the rural market. There are steps that rural operators can take to combat them, such as learning as much as they can about their customers, but operators shouldn’t dally in preparing for these competitors, Gerski advised.
- Billing company NISC serves both telcos and utility companies – and according to Dosch, about 25 rural power companies have broadband networks or are building them, with another 75 such companies planning to build out broadband. Nevertheless Dosch sees potential for strategic partnerships between telcos and power companies involving things like hosted services and marketing.
- Yassini is doing a lot of work on TV white spaces broadband by, for example, talking with chip makers about getting the cost of the technology down. He also has looked at using different modulation techniques and channel bonding to increase the bandwidth. And he believes it will be possible to get the cost of TV white spaces customer premises down from the $400 range today to about $50.
- Shannon predicts the impending demise of the set-top box – a move he said could save the pay TV industry $20 billion annually. He notes, for example, that Time Warner Cable is “starting to think of themselves as an app” and that TWC and other companies will begin letting customer bring their own devices to run that app.
- Verizon’s LTE in Rural America program has made substantial progress, Lippman said. The next step, he said, will be to make Verizon’s XLTE technology available to the company’s rural partners – a move that will mean opening up additional spectrum in the AWS-1 band to rural operators participating in the LRA program.