Friday, May 12, 2017

Legacy incumbent providers should reassess stance on public sector telecom infrastructure

Incumbent legacy telephone and cable companies are wont to complain that public sector telecommunications infrastructure modernization projects represent unfair market competition. That’s not an accurate characterization, and here’s why. The goal of market competition is to offer better value products and services to gain market share from competitors.

Public sector telecom modernization projects don’t have an explicit objective of taking away market share from incumbent providers. Rather, their goal is to offer a more complete and robust network than incumbent, investor owned providers can build within a reasonable time frame given the short term ROI constraints of their business models that disfavor infrastructure modernization CAPex. That goal is typically in support of broader economic development objectives, not capturing market share from existing legacy providers. Thus if these providers lose market shares in public sector telecom infrastructure initiatives, it is incidental and not part of an intentional strategy. Public policy should not protect legacy providers from losing market share due to infrastructure modernization needs they cannot meet.

That said, there is potentially lucrative role for legacy providers. They have lots of experience and know how to operate and maintain telecom infrastructure. They can partner with the public sector to fulfill these functions, viewing the public sector as a customer and not a competitive threat.

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