Desperation Drives Telco Move To IPTV; SBC Exec Describes $4 Billion Investment As “Not Much Money”

Telcos looking for a counterpunch to cable VoIP and telephony are pegging their hopes on IPTV. USA Today’s Leslie Cauley writes about their plans against the backdrop of the IPTV rollout by Pioneer Telephone, which has 35,000 telephone customers in Oklahoma. After one year, Pioneer has 2,600 IPTV customers, with 270 more on the waiting list; the goal is 35 percent within two years. The rural telephone company doesn’t market the service as IPTV, which could confuse customers, but as digital television. “People just don’t realize the complexity of these systems until they get into it,” says Pioneer GM Richard Ruhl.
Integration and scaling are the biggest hurdles facing SBC in its far more massive IPTV effort. SBC COO Randall Stephenson says the $4 billion IPTV investment “is very little money. If I bet wrong, it’s not much money for us to burn.” If IPTV, doesn’t work, he told Cauley, “We’ll just switch gears and go fiber-to-the-prem.”
So far, Stephenson says SBC is only four months off schedule and could miss by another quarters at most. Microsoft is driving the timeline and Cauley reports it isn’t close to done, citing another SBC exec who says the set-top boxes can’t be finished until Microsoft is done.