Telecoms compete to provide one-stop shopping for families

Friday, May 28th, 2004

Gillian Shaw

Michael Sabia said Bell’s experience in bridging the two solitudes of French and English Canada leave it well equipped to deal with regional loyalties and affinities. CREDIT: Ward Perrin, Vancouver Sun

Coming in your telecommunications future is the day when you’ll call up for phone service and find yourself the recipient of an array of offerings to keep you connected, entertained and organized — in fact, you could have a total digital makeover.

That’s the future as seen by Bell Canada and Telus, the two telecoms turned digital department stores that are vying for the hearts, minds and homes of B.C. consumers.

For a long time it hasn’t been enough to simply provide a phone service, or even add a mobile phone to the consumer offerings. Today’s savvy telecommunications companies are taking a leaf from bankers’ books and looking to build relationships with their customers.

It’s a relationship in which they want consumers to turn to them for all their digital needs — whether it’s the delivery of entertainment, the creation of home networks so kids can do their homework online while Dad surfs the Web, creating a wireless solution to keep their home-based business humming, or a security system with cameras to let homeowners see what’s happening on the home front from any computer they happen to be sitting at.

Telus CEO Darren Entwistle calls it the “digital home solution.”

“We want to provide a bundle for customers that, at the end of the day, will enhance their lifestyles,” he said. “We want to take the technology we have, enable the digital home through that technology and make the future a little more friendly.

For Entwistle it means one-stop shopping: “By having one high-quality supplier to deal with all their digital needs, not talking technology but talking solutions that are meaningful for the lives they lead, which are becoming increasingly frenetic.”

In Vancouver this week to muscle into Telus’s home turf, much as Telus is intruding into its backyard, Bell Canada is talking from the same marketing textbook.

“I think the future of these businesses will be determined by our ability to service the entirety of a household. It is not going to be about the one-off sale of Internet service, or telephone or video,” Bell Canada CEO Michael Sabia told The Vancouver Sun editorial board Thursday. “The real competition will be in a sense for the totality of the broadband home.

“Those companies that can bring an integrated solution to the broadband home — that’s what the focus of competition is going to be about. It’s what we’ll see in the future.”

One part of the over-all home solution is the delivery of video, which Bell already does through its satellite service, with almost 1.5 million subscribers. The company can also deliver that video signal over fibre to multiple dwelling units, distributing it throughout the building essentially over copper telephone wire. The economies of scale work for multiple dwellings, but fail when it comes to single homes, so Sabia said his company is trial-testing a video solution, IPTV (Internet Protocol television), in which greatly compressed video signals are run over standard broadband lines. Sabia said commercial deployment is probably a year to 18 months away.

Service is a key differentiator and both Telus and Bell are trying to overcome their various customer-service problems to appear the winners in this area.

© The Vancouver Sun 2004

Comments are closed.