Keeping Up With the Broadband Economy

SAN MATEO (01/24/2000) - "I love Nortel," our Toronto airport cab driver said when we told him that that was where we were going. "I mean the stock," he added as he turned up the financial news on the radio. That morning, Nortel Networks Corp. had invested in Research in Motion Ltd., developer of the Blackberry device for reading and forwarding e-mail. It seemed perfectly natural to him that a manufacturer of industrial-strength networking gear would buy into a company that makes a tiny wireless access device.

As our cabbie made very clear, consumers don't see the Web as the only way to get information and make transactions. Indeed, the notion of newfangled services from upstart companies is a great feature of today's telecom landscape.

But while it is great for savvy consumers and business customers, it is daunting for IT executives who don't keep broadband and wireless on their radar screen.

Deregulation of the global telecommunications industry, the convergence of voice and data network traffic on IP, and billions invested in telecom infrastructure is rapidly expanding IT managers' networking options. But the explosion of services also means that the applications need to keep pace with customers' expectations. Corporations should take a page out of the telecom playbook and focus on delivering services beyond a build-it-and-they-will-come Web site.

Our Page One news stories this week reflect the new networked world. Ephraim Schwartz reveals that a consortium of utility and computer companies is secretly building a broadband network to people's homes and places of business.

A utility is certainly not your father's Ma Bell, but so what? The benefits are compelling.

Meanwhile, Dan Briody and Michael Lattig report on how wireless services can radically shake up the Web's business models.

Of course, there will be teething problems with these services -- there always are -- but that doesn't mean they can be ignored: Our cab driver wants his stock quotes.

Is your company ready to take advantage of the dynamic telecom world?

Write to me at or visit my forum at

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