As we end another year here at FierceTelecom, it's time to reflect on the major news themes of the past year in the telecom industry's wireline segment. For this issue of FierceTelecom, we are serving up our seventh annual Year in Review issue. The year 2015 was a time again of transition and, arguably, disruption in the wireline segment on three fronts: regulatory, consolidation, and technology.
In the regulatory arena, the FCC's passing of the net neutrality order that incorporates Title II regulation of the 1934 Telecom Act to classify ISPs as a utility has continued to stir debate. Perhaps not surprisingly, incumbent telcos -- AT&T (NYSE: T), CenturyLink (NYSE: CTL) and Verizon (NYSE: VZ) and their main trade associations the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) and USTelecom -- argue the new regulation will stifle network investment and create an air of uncertainty. The FCC's order is currently being reviewed by a number of judges, including some that overruled the previous net neutrality proposals, at a federal court.
Realigning business strategy was also a key headline grabber in 2015. Verizon made the boldest move, agreeing to sell its wireline assets in three states to Frontier for $10.5 billion. Since that deal was announced in February, speculation has mounted that it would sell its remaining wireline assets including its coveted enterprise business. Verizon has vehemently denied these rumors, saying they are critical to their existing consumer wireline and wireless customers.
Verizon is also weathering a tough labor negotiation process with the Communications Workers of America (CWA) union. Following various proposals before the existing contract expired in August, neither side has yet to agree on issues related to health care, pension and other benefits.
But Verizon isn't the only wireline telco realigning its strategy. Finding that the data center business is a challenging one from a capital and operations standpoint, Windstream and CenturyLink decided to realign their data center strategies.
Windstream sold its data center assets earlier this year to TierPoint for $575 million. It has used part of the sale—about $250 million—to partly fund its Project Excel initiative to expand and enhance its broadband speeds. No less important was CenturyLink. After entering the data center business by acquiring Savvis, the telco is considering a possible sale of these assets.
Finally, the role of SDN and NFV in the form of on-demand business and wholesale services has continued to emerge. AT&T clearly led the charge in the software-based service trend. It has attracted over 250 customers for its Ethernet on Demand service, which leverages its growing SDN and NFV ecosystem. Meanwhile, CenturyLink is advancing its SDN network while Verizon says it will use SDN to migrate customers from TDM to IP. Outside of the ILECs, Level 3 has implemented SDN for its adaptive network and hybrid WAN offerings.
Once you've checked out this year's biggest stories below, please take a look at our previous Year in Review features from 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010 and 2009. Also, definitely let us know what you think in the comments. Also, don't forget to check out the 2015 Year in Review by FierceWireless, the 2015 Year in Review by FierceOnlineVideo, the 2015 Year in Review by FierceCable, the 2015 Year in Review by FierceWireless:Europe and the 2015 Year in Review by FierceWirelessTech.--Sean
P.S. FierceTelecom will be on a publishing break for the holidays. We will update the website with any breaking news during the week, and our newsletter will be back in your inbox on Monday, Jan. 4, 2016. Enjoy the holidays and have a Happy New Year!