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Qwest using telecom transport expertise to stake OTT, cloud computing claims

Qwest likes to go its own way, and told TM Forum attendants it believes its telecom transport expertise will grow its enterprise cloud computing services and consumer over-the-top Internet video partnerships.

Qwest has always relished its reputation as the rough-and-tumble rebel of the telecom transport market. Its rugged individualistic self-image goes back to its first incarnation as US West, the Bell company freed from AT&T in 1984, then acquired by a long-distance upstart to form Qwest.

Transport has become a dirty word in the telecom industry, but Qwest may find that pure telecom transport expertise is the light at the end of its tunnel.

US West's in-your-face slogan was, "If you don't make dust, you eat dust," complete with a visual of cowboys and bulls mixing it up. But that was before Qwest almost went bankrupt and saw many of its executives go to jail in the early 2000s.

Qwest has always been, um, a little different. These days, it sounds as if Qwest is declaring victory by taking the opposite route from most other carriers when it comes to Internet video and wireless. As service providers all over the world scramble to figure out how to get a cut of the grand Internet video pie, Qwest is banking on its telecom transport expertise to carry content for partners. When other carriers see a future built on wireless, Qwest partners for wireless services for its customers instead of buying spectrum.

Being reminded that Qwest is not in the wireless business and is not trying to get into Internet video, one wonders whether Qwest is: a) nuts, or b) the one-eyed guy in the kingdom of the blind.

Neil Cox, Qwest's executive vice president of product development and management, told 1,200 attendees at this week's global TM Forum conference in Orlando that his company is definitely staking a claim to transport and manage new applications, to offer cloud computing and managed services like software as a service (SaaS) for enterprises, and to partner with over-the-top (OTT) companies to bring video and new applications to consumers. It's such a straightforward message that it's almost confusing.

Qwest's four-step program based on telecom transport expertise

Maybe the answer lies here. Qwest has been to hell and back in trying to keep itself alive and now is operating on a four-step program of core beliefs that will enable growth, Cox said:

  • Voice services must be augmented with video, which means video must be delivered to four screens, not three;
  • Broadband applications delivered to many screens in the home will beat out current existing mobile applications and Web search;
  • Sporting events are the only kind of videos that require live delivery -- with the possible exception of news, everything else can be acquired from an OTT player and accessed on-demand;
  • Cloud and managed services represent the new business model for the enterprise market, not a new technology.

Since Qwest doesn't believe in the "liveness" of most video, it is happy to partner with DirecTV to allow a broad array of OTT services into homes via Qwest Ethernet connections. OTT is coming, and Qwest has no intention of standing in its way, Cox said. Of course, Qwest has a real estate play that will help all of that content get delivered: Qwest is moving into content delivery networks (CDNs) to optimize all of that content for its OTT friends. In Qwest's view, that puts it in the value stream.

Then there are Qwest's 13 hosting centers nationwide, which were so empty four years ago you could play football in them. Cox said they are now at 90% of capacity and will work quite nicely for managed and cloud services to help usher in a new enterprise business model. He said that is only possible because carriers have made networks reliable and affordable in the last 10 years.

Transport has become a dirty word in the telecom industry, but Qwest may find that pure telecom transport expertise is the light at the end of its tunnel.

This was last published in December 2009

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