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Monday, September 11, 2006

Vodafone DSL Deal: More Questions than Answers

Back in July, Vodafone announced a total communications service for SME’s based upon re-sold voice from Energis (now C&W) and resold DSL from Viatel.

Today, Vodafone has announced they are resell BT broadband product for consumers before the year-end.

The deal with BT asks a lot more questions about the Vodafone product set than it answers:
1) What will the differentiated consumer product look like?
2) What will happen to the Vodafone SME products?
3) Will Vodafone start to be more aggressive with Fixed Line products in the Corporate Sector?

Also it raises a lot more questions about the wholesale LLU market:
1) Does Vodafone believe coverage is more important than cost?
2) Does Vodafone believe the problems (witness Bulldog, Tiscali & TalkTalk) with LLU provision will continue?
3) Does Vodafone believe BT Wholesale will make significant price reductions when total LLUers reach 1.5m and BT can then revise its’ IPStream prices.

I also wonder how much weight was attached to strategic medium term thinking behind the Vodafone decision. After all, once BT’s & Vodafone’s networks become all-IP then there is a plethora of new IMS-type services both can offer regardless of access method - Copper, fibre or Wireless. I also suspect with O2 and Orange committing to build their own access networks then with this deal Vodafone is guaranteed the BT MVNO custom for the foreseeable future. Of course, the tempting long term consequence is that the economics of combining Vodafone and BT become stronger as integration of the networks becomes tighter.

The biggest loser in the deal appears to C&W, who slowly but surely is seeing its’ wholesale DSL strategy unraveling. Last week, C&W announced a tie-up with Pipex and I’m sure the timing of this release and the Vodafone announcement is related. C&W desperately needs another couple of significant customers to prove that their LLU infrastructure is not going to be idle for a substantial proportion of the day.