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The Wireless Providers
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We covered the wireless sector in great detail earlier in the book, so we won t go into detail here. Suffice it to say that usage is up, but ARPU is
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dramatically down not a healthy picture. Watch this sector for continued consolidation and buy-down: The recently announced merger of Nextel and Sprint is one of the first; it certainly won t be the last.
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The Internet Service Providers (ISPs)
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In reality it doesn t make sense to address the ISPs alone because they have been subsumed by a greater collection of service providers known collectively as the communications service providers (CSPs). These are broadly defined as companies that provision IP-based services including those based on wireline, wireless, and cable access technologies and that include Internet service providers (ISPs), applications service providers (ASPs), and both wireline and next-generation service providers. These CSPs are launching bundled services by aggregating content through partnerships among the content providers, software providers, and network providers. By offering bundled service packages, they will enjoy the coveted first-mover advantage by selling a collection of services that are both desirable and that offer broad margins. The biggest challenge they face will be customer retention: To attract and retain them, win adequate market share, and drive profits, CSPs must develop and make the best advantage of customer care and billing systems. Without these systems, which provide the ability to not only bill but also to monitor the purchasing behavior of the customer and respond to it, CSPs cannot respond fast enough to maintain a leading position among their competitors. Key to their survival is the migration from being providers of traditional flat-rate, dial-up access to the Internet to being providers of richly contextual, just-in-time, user-specific services such as VoIP; fax over IP; voice over xDSL; video and audio content streaming; video e-mail; electronic gaming; and text, audio, and video instant messaging. Of course, these services are fundamentally dependent on the availability of broadband access because they are bandwidth intensive. The combination of rapid response and bandwidth availability are two critical components. A third, naturally, is critical mass in the market. Successful customer acquisition and retention strategies will be crucial in the medium to long term. Finally, provisioning these services in a way that makes them profitable is the last piece of the puzzle. Billing algorithms may need to change as this evolution occurs: Today most services are billed on a flat-rate basis; in the future a combination of flat rate and measured billing may become the norm.
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8
If we assume that this model of access, application, and content is valid that is, that successful companies in the CSP space will comprise some combination of these three elements then we can identify and speak to the characteristics of each element. Under the purview of the CSPs are found a collection of company types including the wireless content providers, traditional access providers, and application providers. In the paragraphs that follow we discuss each in turn. Let s now examine the manufacturing sector, beginning with the component manufacturers responsible for semiconductor and optoelectronic devices.
The Component Manufacturers (Semiconductor and Optoelectronics)
As the lowermost layer in the technology market food chain, the semiconductor industry serves as the layer of silicon-based plankton that provides viability to the entire chain. As a result, it is typically the last layer to contract in a recession and the first to recover. And, true to form, that is precisely what we are currently seeing. Global semiconductor sales were roughly $200 billion for 2003, with major contributors including WiFi, automotive demand, screen (display) technology, LEDs, microprocessors, DVD, DRAM, nanotechnology devices, and smart cards. Today there are more than 1.5 billion smart cards in use, underscoring the great demand for this alternative technology. Similarly, wireless demand has driven attention to related technologies, such as improved battery life, multiprotocol support, and reduced space requirements. Major players in the component sector include Intel, AMD, IBM, Agere, and Texas Instruments. Intel has long been the dominant player in the industry, with its functional tentacles extended into numerous successful ventures that span the breadth of the industry. AMD is the number two PC processor manufacturer after Intel. Interestingly, AMD started its life as an Intel imitator, licensed to sell Intel-designed chips as a second supplier to the market. The relationship between the two companies eventually unraveled, and after a series of minimally successful products, AMD finally came out with the 1 GHz Athlon, which put the company on the map. Their success story has continued ever since, and today they are a true force to be reckoned with.
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