The Times Are Changing – or Have Already Changed -- for the Telcos

Carl Weinschenk
Slide Show

2016 Telecommunications Trends: More Choices, Less Lock-In

The rollout of FiOS, Verizon’s fiber and coax-based telecommunications platform, was thought to be about over. That common wisdom, according to Light Reading, has turned out to not be the case.

In what Mari Silbey calls a surprise announcement, the telco said that it will roll out the FiOS service in Boston. Verizon will also negotiate a cable franchise and conduct a smart city trial that will address local traffic issues and experiment with other sensor-driven technologies.

Commentary in the story says that the move is a surprise in light of the sale of several FiOS platforms to Frontier Communications. (That transition, by the way, has not been smooth.)


The surprising news was part of a week that clearly was not business as usual for the company. Yesterday, 36,000 Verizon workers went on strike. The Boston Globe said that the “[t]he workers’ aggressive stance reflects the turmoil in an industry undergoing rapid technological change while its veteran workforce fights to protect its jobs.”

The strikers include repairmen, installers, customer service representatives and other workers. The piece juxtaposed, to some extent, the walk-out with the Boston FiOS announcement:

Myles Calvey, business manager for IBEW Local 2222 in Dorchester, said the technicians on strike are highly involved in new technologies, including maintaining fiber-optic networks and upgrading streaming services. Bringing FiOS to Boston will further increase demand for their services.

In the big picture, the FiOS announcement and the strike point to the transition that telecommunications is making. Strikes have become rare as union power has ebbed, but the stresses remain.

Another sign of the changing times in general and at Verizon in particular is the replacement of copper with fiber beyond FiOS. Philly.com says that subscribers of copper-based who call for repairs twice in an 18-month period are automatically switched. More than 1 million subscribers have been under the program, which is called “Fiber is the Only Fix.” About 12 million candidates remain in the Verizon universe.

Few perfect metaphors exist in life. But recent events at Verizon come pretty close: On one hand, a strike (which itself has an anachronistic sound to it) is in its early hours. At almost the same time, the company made an unexpected announcement that it will push its newer technology to a big northeastern city that is famous for being tradition-bound and slow to change. In the background, the company is working hard to phase out the copper cables that made the industry great in the first place. The times are changing – or have changed – for the telephone industry.

Carl Weinschenk covers telecom for IT Business Edge. He writes about wireless technology, disaster recovery/business continuity, cellular services, the Internet of Things, machine-to-machine communications and other emerging technologies and platforms. He also covers net neutrality and related regulatory issues. Weinschenk has written about the phone companies, cable operators and related companies for decades and is senior editor of Broadband Technology Report. He can be reached at cweinsch@optonline.net and via twitter at @DailyMusicBrk.



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