Four trends to watch at COMPTEL Fall 2010

Sean Buckley, FierceTelecomChances are, if you're headed out to the COMPTEL PLUS Fall show next week, you're going to hear a lot about various transitions and opportunities taking place in the competitive retail and wholesale marketplace.

As I see it, I think there are four major trends that will bubble up during next week's show:

  • Ethernet everywhere: Competitive carriers continue to gain a foothold in the retail Ethernet market segment. Although they may not have the scale of the large incumbent players, tw telecom (Nasdaq: TWTC), Cox Business and XO Communications (OTC BB: XOHO.OB) have been aggressively building out their Ethernet presence by expanding their own facilities into new and existing locations and through carrier partnerships. In addition to building out fiber, some carriers like XO Communications are leveraging Ethernet over Copper (EoC) to expand their Ethernet presence, while Cox leverages its existing HFC plant to deliver Ethernet where it currently does not have fiber presence.
  • Wireless backhaul bonanza: While it's true that residential users are continually ditching their landline phone connection, the drive for more wireless voice and data will require more wireless backhaul. As wireless operators expand their current 2G/3G and upcoming 4G wireless networks, both integrated wireless/wireline (AT&T (NYSE: T) and Verizon (NYSE: VZ)) and even standalone wireless operators (T-Mobile) will need to turn to alternative wholesale carriers, rural telco middle mile consortiums and even wireless backhaul specialists in secondary markets.
  • Competitive consolidation continues: Consolidation and the marriage of competitive players with similar assets continued to be an ongoing trend since the spring 2010 Comptel show. There has been no shortage of deals in the last six months. In addition to RCN Metro being bought out by private equity company ABRY Partners to create the new Sidera Networks, other deals that will be the talk of the town at the fall show will be Windstream's acquisition of Q-Comm; MegaPath's merger with Covad and Speakeasy; and NTELOS' acquisition of FiberNet from One Communications. With its sale of FiberNet set to be completed later this year, One Communications, which itself was formed through the assets of the former Conversant Communications, is now considering its own M&A options.
  • The new competitors: Their names may be familiar, but their roles in the competitive telecom market would argue are relatively new. In particular, the two new competitive players to keep an eye out for will be Comcast and Windstream. Both of these service providers, while maintaining their identities as the local cable company and phone company respectively, are clawing their way into the competitive telecom market through M&A. Comcast (Nasdaq: CMCSA) and Windstream (Nasdaq: WIN) completed their respective acquisitions of Cimco and NuVox. Along with their internal network build outs, these acquisitions immediately establish Comcast and Windstream as new competitive telecom players.

With these trends as a backdrop, I hope you have a great show and please let us know if you have other trends you think the FierceTelecom staff should be following this year.--Sean

P.S. Due to a family issue I won't be attending the show live in Texas, but I will still be covering any news that comes out related to the show remotely. My colleague Samantha Bookman, managing editor of FierceTelecom's wireline group, will be present at the show to conduct interviews and meet and greets.

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