Top Gear, the hugely successful BBC car program, has an item called the Cool Wall. Its the most subjective way of dividing cars up from subzero, via cool, uncool to seriously uncool. An Audi TT is seriously uncool a Landrover Defender is subzero.
I thought I do the same for the telecom industry. Being cool or uncool is as subjective here as it is there. Cool is defined as novel, alternative, fun, smart,benefiting the end-user and society. Uncool is benefiting the company and the company alone. I would love to hear readers opinions too
To quote ICON at the end of the Salone Internationale del Mobile 2005 (design): “We also make no apologies for the heavy representation of Dutch designers and brands: Milan once again shows how this small nation continues to produce the most innovative and intelligent design.”
The same goes for the Telecoms industry, though it isn't the best in everything, the climate still is exceptional.
Free (France) 30 euro a month buys you 28mbit/s DSL (design their own DSL modems), free calling in France and to fixed numbers in 50+ countries, IP-TV, HD-TV, recorder, TV-Perso + native IPv6 (thanks Jap), etc. It has redefined the French broadband market by teaching marketeers that its not about new services that generate new revenues, but that it's about delivering more for the same money. Delivering something new every month drives churn to 0%. This company is so cool that it actually upped the ante by investing in fibre networks! For 30 euro per month of course. It is the perennial favorite for the fourth French mobile license, sending shivers up the spines of it competitors. Best of all it makes a healthy profit every year.
Internet Exchanges (mostly Europe and Asia) Most internet exchanges are cool. They are the not-for-profit associations (or similar) where ISP's interconnect their networks. The effect of internet exchanges has been massive competition in the European telecoms market. Their stats are flabbergasting (400Gbit/s traffic in Amsterdam). People working for Internet Exchanges are also good for having a beer with that's bonus points. Sub-zero then.
Internet Network Geeks: Beards, T-shirs and Sandals. Most of these men are great to have a beer with. They know why the network works. Because it imposes as little constraints on the end-user as possible. Most of them will not try to sell you a dysfunctional protocol or worse force it unto you by government regulation (though DNSSEC might be an exception)
Rabo Mobiel (Netherlands) A bank with its own MVNO. Cheap calling included with integration with your bank account. Better even, they've introduced SMS payments for everybody in The Netherlands, regardless of whether they have a bank account with the bank. All you need is a mobile phone number. That is just cool.
Telekom Slovenije (Slovenia): They are an incumbent, so that almost defines them under uncool or seriously uncool, but they have their own FTTH program called F2, without being pushed by anyone, just a general idea that it might be good to the country (I think). Just realizing that dream, makes you Cool in my book.
KPN (Netherlands): The smartest incumbent in Europe and maybe the world. Decided a while ago to invest in an All-IP network, which meant VDSL2 50mbit/s symmetric to every home. Now take that BT, that's what you call a network upgrade... And of course a brilliant way to kill of the competitive DSL-network. On the one hand it was forced by the potential of the cable industry in The Netherlands, but it has done so without the mistakes of fighting over the investment and access to it with the regulator. Much smarter then Deutsche Telekom and BT again. It knows exactly how to appease its shortsighted shareholders and still invest in FTTH. Yup, by investing in Reggefiber for 41%. You just know they will be the reigning incumbent for the next 50 years in The Netherlands, leaving the scraps for others.
FON and Eduroam: Fon and Eduroam are cool. Sharing wireless is cool. It should be mandated by law that all wifi access points should be shared amongst the customers of the ISP. Ofcourse almost no incumbent does it, because it might hurt their mobile data revenues.
Google: Google is cool, but getting less and less so. It used to be you wanted to talk to the Google guy at a party... in the Telco world I'd much rater shake hands with FON, Free, Internet Exchanges etc. Their ideas were once the coolest on the planet. Now they are just part of a larger group. Google is good at ideas, but not always at execution. Their bluffs (Android and White Spaces) in the telecom business are amusing and they are the only thing that really grabs the attention of Telco CEO's, who mistakenly see Google as a competitor. However all their forays in the telco market will result not result in Google becoming a telco, but hopefully scare the telco's into not seeing themselves as application and content providers.
British Telecom: There is much against BT to be listed in the Cool section. Incumbents are not cool. BT's 21CN is not cool, as it's all hype and nothing of substance to the end-user. Only delivering ADSL. Expensive backhaul (Ofcoms fault but still). Whining about the fibre investment (better then Deutsche Telekom), dumb enough to sell mobile branch. Only thing going for it is its cooperation with FON. That's Cool. Fon is cool, but the association is not enough to get BT on the cool list.
Reggefiber: Reggefiber is behind most investements in FTTH in the Netherlands. Therefore it should be cool. The problem with Reggefiber is that I see only calculations and no conviction. They haven't offered novel things in the market, nothing to brag about except connections. My image of someone working for Reggefiber is that of an accountant. Not cool.
Cable companies: I don't know any cool cable company. Some smaller ones like Reka, Kabel Noord and maybe Caiw may come into touching distance of being cool, but the big brothers, Comcast, Virgin, UPC, Telenet, Kabel Deutschland just aren't. They've promised us everything and haven't delivered a thing. Video on Demand anyone? ah yes, that's something iTunes gives us. Cable companies delivering fibre? Only in the advertisements, never to the end-users. Never a front runner, often only a runner on paper. So why are they not on the seriously uncool list.. well they sometimes keep the incumbent honest, like in the Netherlands.
European Commission: Mrs. Reding has many qualities that would list her in the subzero section. Taking on the mobile sector is really cool. However the solutions generally don't lead to permanent competition. The EU way of regulating roaming is a cent at the time. My mobile roaming solution (kind of carrier preselect for roaming) would solve it. The Commission is getting better at working on tough problems like structural separation etc. However it is an undemocratic institution that so often caused the problems it is now trying to solve, including sanctioning the GSMA-cartel. So the good stuff is keeping it from being seriously uncool.
Incumbents: Almost by definition they're uncool. Some even seriously uncool. They've been given this great asset and a perennial monopoly, that is impossible to crush. But instead of using it in a benevolent anti-competitive way (the way KPN works) most of them are just plain evil. Worse still almost all of them have cornered both the fixed and wireless market and their steps into the FTTC market will kill of any potential the competition may have.
Mobile companies (and the GSMA): In Europe all of them are money hogging, price fixing, cartel supported, marketing companies. It's not even about telecoms anymore. Most of them wouldn't know why the roaming rules are the way they are, why we're paying outrageous interconnection tariffs etc. The GSMA even argued for increasing traffic charges if internet traffic crosses a border. Hello! It does offer great value to the shareholders. However overcharging is only cool if you know your doing it and the customer doesn't. Mobile are completely the other way round. They have no clue about their business and the customers know that they are being ripped off.
Deutsche Telekom: In 1994 my student room had more bandwidth (10mbit/s) to the internet than all German universities together. The main cause: Deutsche Telekom. In Germany connecting a fax or modem to a phone line was illegal --> Deutsche Telekom. Even today: VDSL2 is a service according to Deutsche Telekom and therefore exempt from EU regulation. Are you kidding, a modulation technology cannot be a service. All this results in an enormous legal fight with the EU. They could have done what BT does. Same thing, different reaction. Oh come on Germany will never improve on a national scale as long as DT is there, seriously hurting its competitive chances.
North American Telco's: Yes Canada that includes you too (except for some bits touched by Bill St. Arnaud) None of them are cool. Most of them are very seriously uncool. Level 3 and Verizon are a bit more on the positive side. All the others are a shame for the industry. Passive collusion is rampant in the industry. All their employees seem to be lawyers. They seem to be clueless about what's going on in the rest of the world and every investment in the network is seen as an unbearable burden. Yuck. Even Munifi and FTTH initiatives in North America have the image of being a miserable failure. About the only thing good in North America is the absence of regulated mobile termination tariffs... unfortunately this is more then offset by all the rest.