Marketers Take Over as Speeds Increase

Carl Weinschenk
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Verizon has a lot going on, in both its wired and wireless businesses, and it has to do with speed. But it also has to do with what consumers want-and what they are told they want by the company.


On the wired front, the company is speeding up its FiOS service. The top level of service, according to the story, now will reach 150 Megabits per second (Mbps) and cost $195 per month. That's quite fast and quite pricey, but these decisions generally are made after much analysis and the company deserves the benefit of the doubt. It will be interesting to see the level of demand that develops over time.


Right now, the more interesting moves are on the wireless front; the company has begun advertising its 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) service. The company says that it will launch LTE in 38 cities by the end of the year. Since the day after tomorrow is Thanksgiving, that's quite impressive.


But, as Wayne Rash points out, there are a few caveats. Perhaps the main one is that 4G has morphed from a technical term with a specific definition to a marketing label with none. What is clear is that the network, whether it meets some stodgy engineers' definitions or not, will be fast. Observers must make their own decisions on whether cutting corners on the terminology matters or not. This IT World piece also discusses the name game.


The other problem Rash raises is that while the networks may be ready in many places by Jan. 1, equipment won't be. The bottom line for subscribers in those 38 markets is that instead of being able to use LTE networks on New Year's Day, they will have access to faster networks sometime during the winter.


An almost complementary piece posted yesterday at GigaOm by Jeff Belk, the managing director of ICT168 Capital. Belk's commentary was a reaction to an early Verizon LTE commercial. He touches on the danger of marketers at the telco over-promising and the resulting consumer backlash when they fall short:

So, Verizon, why are you predicating your LTE offer on Streaming HD video over LTE? Wide area wireless of any 3G or 4G variety is not Fiber FiOS. It's wireless spectrum; it's ether; and it's not conducive to massive amounts of streamed HD content.

Actually, Belk most likely is being a bit disingenuous. He has been around the block, including a stint as a marketing VP at Qualcomm. He knows that marketing folks don't appropriate and then misuse technical terms by accident. The marketing department's job is to create excitement and buzz. If the best way to do that is to embroider a bit on the abilities and availability of a technology, so be it. Massive upgrades-such as upgrading 38 cities, with more to come-aren't financed by telling the public and investors that the new service will make performance incrementally better.

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