Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Art of War - Telecom10.0(Google) vs. Telecom1.0(ATT)

What happens when a disruptive Telecom10.0 player like Google(Voice) starts looking and feeling like a burr under the saddle of an old Telecom1.0 Cowboy like AT&T?

Alec Saunders of has an excellent and detailed blog summary of Google and AT&T's recent spat over “Net Neutrality”. Alec explains "Google Voice doesn’t pass calls to certain rural carriers because of the high cost of termination in these jurisdictions.  That includes, I’ve been told, our Calliflower conference service which is hosted at a rural carrier as well.  AT&T is trying to convince the FCC that Google Voice is, in fact, a common carrier, and should have to abide by the same rules as they do.  They’ve labeled this a fight over Net Neutrality, which is a mis-characterization."

Alec goes on to explain in detail the Telecom1.0 concept of telephone carrier arbitrage. Basically it's how phone companies pay each other when telephone calls cross invisible gates at carrier network borders (tariffs). Bottom line is AT&T wants to have the FCC start treating Google like a common telephony carrier. But AT&T isn't doing this because they really care whether Google gets affected by this trivial rural termination charges issue. Instead what AT&T wants is to position Google(Voice) into it's "home stadium" of Telecom1.0 competition. If ATT can get the FCC to stamp Google with Telecom1.0 label it will force Google to compete with ATT on it's Telecom1.0 "home field".

Some forget that the original idea of "home field advantage" was a concept related to war and fighting battles. 2300 years ago Sun Tzu said in his book "The Art of War", "The clever combatant imposes his will on the enemy, but does not allow the enemy's will to be imposed on him. By holding out advantages to him, the clever combatant can cause the enemy to approach of his own accord." AT&T is using precisely this strategy because there is actual advantage to be had by Google in siding with AT&T on this rural termination issue. Alec says "..Google may be an (unwilling) ally, as they are facing the same issue – how to avoid paying higher than average termination fees in a business model that gives the customer unlimited long distance for no additional charge."

Sun Tzu would be impressed by this battle ploy being attempted by AT&T. The question though is whether Google will allow themselves to be maneuvered in this manner. Who do you think wins in this fight? Does Google back away and remain in their Telecom10.0 "Blue Ocean" or dive into AT&T's Telecom1.0 "Red Ocean"? There's blood in AT&T's "red ocean" waters and AT&T is circling like a shark waiting to hear a splash.
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