Quad Play Deal After much anticipation, Sprint Nextel, Time Warner Cable, Cox Communications and Advance/Newhouse Communications finally announced the formation of a cable and wireless joint venture. For more, see this week’s Proxy Server. Driving a BelAir In an announcement that may or may not have anything to do with voice-although it’s likely it will-Comcast Interactive Capital (CIC), the forward-looking investment arm of the giant MSO, has placed a chunk of money in Canadian Wi-Fi mesh vendor BelAir Networks. At the most official level, the investment reflects Comcast’s unwavering desire to advance new technologies. On a more realistic level, there are a number of applications that immediately come to mind where Comcast and other MSOs are going to immediately start playing with, says Deepak Sindwani, a CIC principal who’s now a member of BelAir’s board of directors. One of those could be a wireless voice play that uses Wi-Fi mesh that BelAir has "optimized" to work with cable. Phil Belanger, BelAir’s marketing vice president, referenced recent rumors-that now have been confirmed, see above-that Comcast and some other cable operators would be cutting partnerships with Sprint Nextel to get into the wireless space. "What if they had a big Wi-Fi cloud?" Belanger asked. "Their customers could potentially run mobile voice on that and give them an economic advantage because they wouldn’t be paying as much for that as they do to the cellular guys with their MVNO (mobile virtual network operator) thing." Already looking to cut out the middleman before the middleman’s even on board. Now that sounds like a cable play. Leveling the Playing Field Level 3, which provides a ton of backbone to the cable industry, acquired some more broadband capabilities via a $600-million-plus deal to buy WilTel. In the broader sense, this means there will be one less carrier trying to tap the end user commercial space where WilTel was moving with a last-mile Ethernet product. On the other, it’s likely that wholesale network prices might just stop falling because one more wholesaler is out of the business, and, like the oil companies, less might cost more. TelCove and 10Gig Ever wonder what happened to Adelphia Business Solutions when the troubled MSO jettisoned its commercial businesses unit? It became TelCove. This week TelCove came back into the spotlight by introducing a 10 GigE service for metropolitan area networks in 70 East Coast and Midwest U.S. markets. It’s not like there’s any love lost with the old Adelphia name, incidentally. "We used to be Adelphia Business Solutions. That’s our genesis. Now we’re under the TelCove name and having a good time as far as being able to build out our network," said Michael Benya, product marketing manager-transport products. The 10 GigE speed is nice, but "no huge deal," said Brian Washburn, a principal analyst-business network services at Current Analysis. What is a big deal is that TelCove has "3,400 potential clients right away that they can sell the 10 Gig Ethernet to. They also purport to have construction capabilities, so they actually have the ability to extend out if there’s someone near their fiber but not under their footprint." To paraphrase George Orwell: TelCove good; Adelphia Business Solutions bad. Unified Earthlink Speaking of EarthLink (pay attention, they were mentioned in the lead item about Mark Barber), the ISP’s goal of becoming a telecommunications force took another step forward this week when it enlisted-OK, contracted-IP Unity for voice mail and unified messaging. "They’re not facilities-based. They ride the last mile off DSL or cable," said Arun Sobti, IP Unity’s chairman/CEO. "They’re not going for the last-mile loop." What they’re going for is the applications that ride on top of those broadband networks, and that’s where IP Unity comes into the picture. "Together with them, we’ll be adding more applications, more services. This is just the start of where they’re going out with their voice leg and adding services as the draw," Sobti said, adding succinctly: "it’s all about the bundle." (Did he ever work at Cox?) The Nitty Gritty Details The phone industry is not standing still as cable and nonfacilities-based providers get into its voice space. Carrier switching services provider MetaSwitch and Pannaway Technologies-which designs and develops converged voice, video and data platforms-have partnered up to combine Pannaway’s primary line VoIP products and MetaSwitch’s class 4/5 softswitch solutions for rural carriers. How do we know it’s for rural carriers? Because the companies said all the network elements have passed Rural Utilities Service (RUS) trials for delivering IP-based voice services and therefore have the federal government’s thumbs up to sell to rural carriers.