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CTOs Tackle State of Industry

Bob Wallace

CTOs from some of the industry’s largest service providers found a way to cut through a fog of technology issues and focus on business aspects of telecom at a shortish general panel discussion at NXTcomm on Tuesday.

While the topics tossed their way have now become common – converged networks, IMS and various aspects of IPTV – CTOs from BT, Verizon Communications Inc., AT&T Inc. and Qwest Communications International Inc. offered glimpses into the evolution of their respective companies, while trying hard to avoid predictability in their responses.

“The focus on profit and loss has had us distracted from focusing on the customer experience that grows our business,” admitted Matt Bross, group technology officer for BT, which gained wide acclaim roughly two years ago in announcing preferred suppliers for its ambitious and expansive 21st Century Network (21cn) network makeover.

While other speakers asked what converged networks and services meant to them replied along the lines of access to networks and applications anytime, anywhere, Bross split from the pack.

“Our focus on profit and loss fragments convergence, and our move to a software world,” added Bross, who has been a major force in the 21 cn effort, while helping fuel the drive of the IPSphere Forum, a roughly 2-year-old global carrier and supplier organization working to define the means for conducting true business, using Web services and enabled applications, atop an IP infrastructure.

In response to a question asking their take on/value of IMS, most of the CTOs responded along the lines of “IMS is important, but it’s still a work in progress.”

Verizon CTO Mark Wegleitner said his company will have an IMS platform in service later this year, adding that “IMS is still immature at this time,” and that the company will first leverage it for voice and to help make video a seamless service spanning wireline and wireless infrastructures.

Qwest’s Pieter Poll said he doesn’t believe IMS “is a big bang that’s going to happen in the network,” and that the company already uses dedicated systems for voice and IP. He said IMS “is not an upfront purchase and deployment [situation].”

Other nuggets of relevance from the CTO panel:

• AT&T’s Chris Rice said his company plans to roll out a whole-home DVR service, at an unspecified time, perhaps in light of Verizon’s launch of its multiroom DVR offering.

• Rice said the vast majority of content, with the exception of live sporting events, is moving toward a time-shifted environment.

• Bross explained that BT’s Vision IPTV service is essentially offered free in a package of other services that the carrier makes money from.

• Poll said, as part of a home networking interplay, that he doesn’t “think there’s really a demarc today.”

Asked the biggest challenge they face in the next year, BT’s Bross brought the business of telecom back into focus with his response.

“The greatest challenge in the next year is unleashing innovation beyond the payroll of BT,” he said. “We have to move away from old, closed innovation model.”

AT&T Inc.
BT Group Plc
Qwest Communications International Inc.
Verizon Communications Inc.

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