There’s been a lot of talk – and not just at the CTIA Wireless Show – about fixed-mobile convergence (FMC), the telecommunications nirvana where you can access every bit of data you’ve acquired since you were born wherever you are and whenever you want. Someday, like flying cars and interactive video phones, it might actually happen, but those who believe it will be a component of any near-term offering are delusional.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing – just a different way of looking at convergence.
FMC "means a lot of things to a lot of people; there’s certainly no right answer," said Mike Roudi, vice president of wireless at Time Warner Cable.
Roudi was speaking on a panel, "The Race for the X-Play; What Will Determine Winners and Losers?" at CTIA that tried to redefine FMC – or convergence, as some still call it. There is no such thing as a quad play – or even the naughty fourplay – panelists made clear. Thus, when the cable guys partner with Sprint Nextel and introduce Pivot, the question becomes "How do we add mobility to the existing platform?" Roudi said.
From Roudi’s perspective, the first step is to let consumers place-shift content the way they now time-shift programming. Give them the ability to take content they’ve stored at home with them via their mobile devices, and you’ll achieve the initial goal; just don’t rely on any invisible link between the wired and wireless sources.
"Fixed-mobile convergence … is kind of an internal term," said John Garcia, president of the JV, who said that consumers want the convenience of moving content around to different devices and "are now screaming to us, ‘Make it work better.’" Nuances and moving parts In its rudimentary stages, that’s not the easiest thing. TWC has launched service with Sprint in Raleigh, NC, and Austin, TX, and has learned "you have some nuances … there’s a lot of moving parts to that piece of the product mix."
Perhaps most importantly, the JV marks the first time that the cable industry is directing its attention to an individual with a personal device rather than broadcasting – no matter how narrowcast the programming – to a group of users within a residence focused on a shared device.
"It’s not about being in one box; it’s about being in one platform," Roudi said.
And it’s about working together, not just with other cable operators, but also with an outsider – Sprint Nextel – that was once the enemy and could be again. (See above item about WiMAX.)
That, said Garcia, who comes from the Sprint side, has not been difficult because "we all have a very common view of what convergence is. The partners all have the same mentality of what we’re trying to do. If we leverage our assets, we can deliver a better experience."
It’s not FMC, but it is more than consumers now have; it’s technically feasible, and most importantly from the operator’s perspective, lucrative, or, as Roudi concluded, "There’s a lot of money out there to be made in this overall convergence space." – Jim Barthold