The third meeting of U-CAN was held last night in the Holladay Library and was a great discussion on how to add value to UTOPIA and make it more attractive to customers. In particular, content providers are eager to use the high bandwidth offered to offer up high-resolution live performances as well as more locally-produced content. Equipment makes are also chomping at the bit to find a provider interested in using the “cool toys” they produce to make use of the 100Mbit and 1Gbit pipes running into homes. It’s very encouraging to see these groups recognize the value of the network and want to work with service providers to encourage more widespread deployment and distribution.
- Redman Movies rents equipment to the local film industry and sees all kind of possibilities for delivering the finished product via UTOPIA. Some ideas included simulcasting live sporting events, concerts or theatre performances, offering up HD content in native 1080p and even looking down the road at 3D television.
- TenX Networks builds all kinds of network appliances including DVRs, home media servers, video surveillance and conferencing equipment and VoIP setups. Using a high-bandwidth network to up the video quality instead of trying to squeeze more and more out of compression algoriths seems like a winning bet with the kinds of things they want to offer.
- We spent a lot of time talking about what incumbents are doing better. Comcast has done a particularly good job at offering local programming be it Sundance films, high school sports or LDS General Conference. Qwest can push ubiquity and bundling as key selling points. As regular commenter Capt. Video has often stated, UTOPIA needs to do more to offer products and services that differentiate themselves. Currently, video offerings are very… vanilla. I hope that will improve as new providers with different services jump on.
- UTOPIA is apparently reworking the transport fees as part of the reorganization. This will probably result in terms much more amenable to service providers. In the meeting, it was brought up that one service provider who expressed interest was asked to pay $500K just to get a seat at the table. Sounds like that is gone. Service providers who haven’t taken another look at UTOPIA lately should consider doing so.
- XMission has had to delay their VoIP offerings until this fall. Part of the problem is the reworking of the transport fees. The other part was that the original plan was to buy services from Veracity, a plan that fell through when Broadweave stepped into the picture. They have since decided to run all of the phone switching in-house to avoid these external dependencies. You should expect the product to be rock-solid as a result, especially given XMission’s high level of technical competence.
- We also talked wireless again, except this time in the context of it being used as a temporary measure to provide service until fiber can be run all of the way. I don’t think this is the best option because of the problems it introduces. First, you can’t deliver triple-play on wireless because of the bandwidth limitations. Second, you run the risk of signing up a lot of low-end customers that never upgrade to the fiber product. Third, it conflicts with the core mission to build a world-class fiber infrastructure to sell to service providers. Fourth, it creates a poor perception problem that UTOPIA is abandoning its mission to build fiber in favor of the quick buck. There are good points in favor such as signing up customers on a low-end product to generate immediate revenues and interest, but I don’t think it’s a good long-term strategy. I still think wireless has a place as a complementary rather than a foundation infrastructure.
I’m still waiting for final confirmation, but I believe we should be having the next regular meeting of U-CAN at the Central Branch of the Davis County Library in Layton on August 23 at noon. More details to follow.