Internet Service Provision
 Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Drat, Competition

The ITU Strategy and Policy Unit quotes Ovum Consulting analyst Jan Dawson's warning about unclad DSL.

However, although naked DSL is primarily offered as a defensive strategy, it could have nasty knock-on effects on other aspects of incumbents' businesses. Many customers see mobile for voice and DSL for Internet access as the ideal combination, but are forced to maintain both a fixed and a mobile voice subscription in order to receive DSL service. Once this barrier is broken down, we could see rapid abandonment of the PSTN voice line in favour of mobile.

The other hit incumbents will take is from voice over IP. Once users are convinced that VoIP offers a carrier-grade service, they will be able to drop their PSTN lines and use VoIP for their calls from home and office and mobile for their calls outside the home. The combined threat of line losses to mobile and VoIP explains the reluctance of ILECs to make more noise about their naked DSL services.

Let's translate: if we unbundle voice services from the data line, customers will buy voice services from someone else. If they buy voice services from someone else, they'll either buy from a wireless provider or from a VoIP provider. They may even buy the data line from someone else. And where would we be then?

But, customers are already buying the data line from someone else. And they are already buying voice services from someone else. The only customers you retain are those who have no choice. What do you have to offer?

Generally speaking, if you have to force your customer to remain your customer, he'll flee as soon as there is opportunity. There is no pride in being the least respected industry.

1:55:31 PM # Google It!
categories: Industry

 Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Missing Port?

Fazal Majid thinks the AirPort Express should have an RJ-11 jack so that it can connect to a POTS line. I don't think so. The AirPort Extreme base station does.

iChat AV may be a capable VoIP user agent, but the telephony user community likes to move around while talking. Either add an analog telephone adapter, such as the Cisco ATA-186, to an existing cordless phone installation, or deliver a 802.11 wireless handset. If anything, Apple's waiting for the opportune moment.

2:21:15 PM # Google It!
categories: Industry

 Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Supervisor Weasel says....

The CWA See-N-Say is hilarious. Meanwhile, the union has announced that they'll be striking for four days, starting at 00:01 on Friday. The job action is to emphasize their demand for access to jobs in growth areas. They do not want to be stuck in the dead-end PSTN jobs.

Think of the union as a contractor, which it essentially is, in competition with construction teams from Level3, with call centers in Bangalore, with repairmen from Radio Shack, though not with Accenture. Think of yourself as a free agent. Can the union compete with bids from those companies? Can you compete with the consultant?

Why not?

(Whether or not this company should seek outside providers for certain operations depends on what this company is.)

4:49:09 PM # Google It!
categories: Industry

 Monday, May 17, 2004

Portable Property

I'll second Martin Geddes's recommendation to sell telephone numbers directly to the public.

Telephone number portability requirements reduce the ability of the carriers to use the customer's dependence on the number as leverage to retain the customer. Perhaps I'm not steeped enough in regulatory affairs to understand the logic of requiring number portability without explicitly stating that the number belongs to the buyer.

Regarding the value of some area codes over others, the 212 area has a certain cachet. When I was a student at Fordham, it was well-known that you stood a better chance that the sweet thang you met downtown would call you, because it seemed like you lived in Manhattan. Manhattan numbers were worth more than the outer boroughs; the Bronx was just lucky, for a while.

11:14:20 AM # Google It!
categories: Industry

Daddy, Phone!

Little Sister reaching for the phone After sharing a cellular phone with my wife for years, I finally took the plunge and got a line for myself. The new hardware, an LG VX6500 is feature-rich, which means that in the week I've had the phone, I've spent more time taking pictures and messaging than talking. And Verizon likes that.

But shouldn't I be supporting my employer? Sure, I'd love to do that. But competitors lose on three counts here:

  1. Verizon provides my local and long-distance voice service.
  2. In our area, Verizon's wireless coverage is better.
  3. We're already Verizon customers.

Would the triple distraction of voice, Internet, and video help? Not in the least: We are TiVo.

10:19:15 AM # Google It!
categories: Industry

 Tuesday, May 04, 2004

The Mysteries of Market Segmentation

Wes Felter notes that

IBM announced some POWER5 servers, but iSeries is inscrutable to me and the Redbooks aren't out yet. [Hack the Planet]

If rumor is to be believed, this is the part of the game where iSeries and pSeries hardware merges. If you read carefully, you'll see that this hardware runs, natively, not just OS/400 i5/0S, but AIX and Linux. (It runs Windows, too, in some sort of execution environment under i5/0S. But I'm not familiar with that.) IBM is reducing their costs, and making their hardware more appealing to thoughtful purchasers, by eliminating the physical distinctions between the lines. As your needs increase, add more Legos to your pile.

One chip to run them all ...

3:47:13 PM # Google It!
categories: Industry

 Thursday, April 22, 2004

Customer Relationship Manglement

CIO Magazine has a brief article on the failure of a Siebel upgrade at AT&T Wireless (AWE). [AT&T Wireless Self-Destructs, CIO Magazine, April 15, 2004] It is not directly helpful, so I have some more pertinent observations, based on what little data is in the article.

There were three kinds of failures, each aggravating the others.

Morale: Reduce Stress

The article directly addresses morale problems, and attributes them to a lack of job security because of direct evidence that AWE was planning a resource action: outsourcing to India. That's one part of it. Many aspects of the work environment will contribute to a lack of morale, but improving it is mostly a matter of stress reduction. Inflexible deadlines increase stress. And the staff aren't stupid: they can see that there is no contingency plan. This too increases stress. Add management chair shuffling and outsourcing rumors are just the straw which broke morale's back.

Communication: Empty Those Silos

Lines of communication among staff, between staff and consultants, between vendors (TSI and NeuStar) and the industry (WICIS) broke down — if they even existed at all.

"Everything was siloed among the different groups, and we all worked independently of each other," says a project team member.

Communication problems, which is essentially what integration problems are, were addressed by throwing more man-months at them.

The back-end systems-integration work was so complex that it wasn't unusual to see teams of 20 or more people assigned to write connections for a single system, says a former employee. Coordination between the teams-the responsibility of the lead integrator on the project, Deloitte and Touche-quickly got out of hand.

Technique: Limit Externalities

But the project was set up to fail by it's technical practices. It would have succeeded only if morale were high and communication excellent.

First, the decision to use a commercial product, particularly one which required extensive customization, limited AWE's ability to address problems. Extensive customization is always a problem in upgrades: you are merging two branches of a code fork. If a problem were found in Siebel's software, would Siebel be able to fix it? Would AWE be able to work around around it effectively? This is not to say that all commercial CRM products are lousy — an allowance I make only because of Rick Klau — but that if you need to customize the product that much, you need control of the source code.

Technique: Continuous Integration

Secondly, the environment was not stable. Too many cooks were in the kitchen, adding too many pieces of baling wire and duct tape to the batter. The mix was in constant flux, so tests were unable to identify failures.

Teams would work on a revision to their piece of Odyssey, for example, only to find that when they finished testing, code had changed elsewhere in the system, rendering the testing meaningless.

Later, after successive failures,

Deloitte and Touche project managers relaxed testing requirements for various pieces of the system. Rather than freeze the code for the system once problems began, teams continued to add new pieces to the project in an attempt to get it all working. But the new pieces simply added more errors to an already bug-ridden system, which complicated the process of finding root problems and fixing them.

Testing, whether for code functionality or for performance, needs predictability.

  1. It worked.
  2. Now it doesn't.
  3. What changed?

No one knows. They don't integrate often. They don't talk outside of their silos. They're under immense pressure. Maybe this will fix it.

And so the project spirals downward into oblivion.

12:31:58 PM # Google It!
categories: Industry

 Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Reading Your Phone Bill

Somehow TeleTruth got a copy of my phone bill, before I switched to a Verizon Freedom package, and let some of the itemized charges disappear into the flat rate. [via BroadbandReports]

2:18:54 PM # Google It!
categories: Industry