From Quad play to Four play- aggressive rebranding reinvigorating the telco industry again

(Last Updated On: November 9, 2006)

As the industry moves quickly from triple play to quad play, the NTL/Virgin Mobile merger brings a new twist to the industry- great personalities like Sir Richard Branson, who cleverly turned a boring telecom term “quadruple” or “quad” play, into Four Play- cheeky given that the NTL/Virgin merger will be rebranded as Virgin! It seemed to have worked and is gaining attention in the industry.

Meanwhile, France Telecom which acquired Orange, is actively rebranding itself as Orange and as a total communications provider, also in the quad play space. See the “fireside chat” notes with Mr Sanjiv Ahuja, in an earlier writeup on . Other examples of movement towards quad play, can be seen in PCCW acquiring Sunday Communications in Hong Kong. Sunday is one of the smaller mobile players in Hong Kong, allowing PCCW to be the first to market quad play and its ability to rebrand Sunday. Meawhile, here in the US early November Comcast, Time Warner, Cox Communications and Advance/Newhouse Communications announced that they are forming a joint venture with Sprint Nextel to offer customers wireless telephone service in addition to their own services. Whether through rebranding of merged entities, or through alliances, the competition is heatedly on. Some are offerring single billing with discounts whilst others are not. Since the days of AT&T divestiture, it has all come back under AT&T with Cingular wireless, SBC, AT&T wireless, AT&T etc all coming under one roof. AT&T has begun offering triple play services but has yet to enter the quad space, as it awauts integration between AT&T wireless and Cingular. Interesting to see what they plan to offer. Verizon is hot on the heels with this, offering EVDO, committing to WiMz deployments and Fibre to the Home.

All very exciting and interesting, but it has yet to pan out what the user wants. One study here in the US showed that most users still do want multiple devices for multiple usages, e.g. cellphone for phone calls, iPOd for music, PDA for work and TV at home for entertainment. Some say this is because each device does not meet all needs fully or even single do it all devices are too complicated to use. Even with new and exciting Pocket PCs, such as the HTC or DoPod 838Pro (rebranded by Cingular as Cingular 8525 which will soon be released in the US (Nov 15th), it is unclear whether it is mainly the business user who will be excited about quad or four play.

For video and entertainment content, they are also more likely want to chose based on the content they need and want. So cable companies have an edge over telcos offering IPTV, as they are older to the content businses. Surely discounted pricing and ease of use will help determine its success, but this is yet to be seen. The premise of bundling is also that if users are happy with one service in the four services they sign up for, they are less likely to switch providers. On the other hand, this may be the very reason consumers may not be willing to put all their eggs in one basket or may prefer to pick and chose. To protect their investments in access technologies, providers are also more likely to want to “lock” their users into “walled gardens” e.g. block skype or other people content by blocking ports, etc. This may again be not what users want.