The Conventional Wisdom Often is Wrong

Carl Weinschenk

Whether it's the opinion of iPhone users on the quality of AT&T's network or the reasons why fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) isn't exploding in growth, it always is helpful to consider issues without preconceived notions of the underlying dynamics.


The thought that it is important to consider things objectively and without preconceived notions was reemphasized by two pieces of research released recently by The Yankee Group.


FTTP, of course, is the most localized and granular vision of fiber networks. It is easy to assume that the main obstacle to the growth of FTTP is the expense of converting light to electrical impulses at the side of the home. For many years, this may well have been the case.


The Yankee Group, however, has a different perspective. It says that the key issue is a shortsighted supply chain. The Executive Summary of the report says that FTTP has not taken off, and suggests that the reason is rooted in business, not technology:

[T]he overarching explanation lies in the fact that players with stakes in FTTP rarely look across the value chain at all the players involved to try to understand what their drivers might be and how they might leverage these drivers to accelerate the overall dynamic of migration from legacy broadband to FTTP broadband.

The other surprise from the Yankee Group is that iPhone users aren't making as big a deal about the perceived shortcomings of the AT&T network as journalists and bloggers do. It found that 73 percent of subscribers were "very satisfied" with the network's performance. That's ahead of AT&T customers as a whole (68 percent) and smartphone users in general (69 percent). Yankee analyst Carl Howe suggested that the positive feelings might be a carryover from Apple's involvement. Howe, according to NewsFactor, says that the iPhone "creates a halo effect that rubs off."

The FTTP and AT&T/iPhone research have little in common, except that they prove that the common wisdom isn't always accurate. In some cases, the common wisdom was correct at one point, but no longer is. The reality that organization shortcomings, and not costs, are the key to FTTP deployment problems and that almost three-quarters of iPhone owners like the performance of AT&T's network are important lessons. The most important lesson, however, is that commonly accepted answers aren't always the right ones.

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