Both Cox and Comcast made major announcements this week outlining new products targeting the small business sector. Cable companies see the lucrative small business market, estimated to be worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $130 – $150 billion (including voice, video, and data services), as their next big growth frontier. Residential triple play is a nice business as well, but large cable companies have anxious stakeholder and shareholder expectations to meet, that residential triple play may not meet alone. Competition for residential triple play is accelerating as well, and its impact is beginning to affect the stock price of publicly traded cable MSO’s. Comcast recently hit a 52 week low on their stock price, due in large part to concerns that Verizon and AT&T are beginning to erode Comcast’s growth. The small business sector is the next frontier for which we will see pitched battles between cable and telecom. Telecom carriers are not about to concede this lucrative business and will compete aggressively.
Cox’s latest salvo is branded Cox Business Voice Manager. It offers a “telephony platform that integrates the desktop phone, PC and wireless devices.” The platform appears to offer a rich suite of features including elements of fixed mobile convergence and unified messaging. The platform is built on Cox’s IP enabled telephony network. In Comcast’s case, they have decided to partner with Microsoft to deliver a hosted version of Microsoft’s Communication Server platform. The service provides corporate-class e-mail, calendaring and document sharing, and 24/7 tech support. Comcast will make the service available free of charge to their business broadband accounts. Both of these announcements demonstrate that cable views the small business market with great anticipation. These moves are but a few of many to come, and they will challenge the incumbent telcos who currently own this space to respond.