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Why AT&T and Sprint just announced business conferencing services

Matt Hamblen | Nov. 19, 2014
Both announcements signal a continuing push by U.S. wireless carriers to offer services to business customers as a way to generate lucrative future revenues in a radically changing economic climate for carriers.

President Obama has come out hard against throttling by Internet service providers and urged the Federal Communications Commission to treat ISPs like traditional phone companies.

There's no indication that Obama's position on net neutrality, announced last week, has anything to do with the timing of Tuesday's announcements by AT&T and Sprint. Both companies have been on the path toward offering services for a long time. Still, it's a path that makes carriers potentially immune from some FCC regulations. If the carriers are running the service and are not creating capacity for somebody else, they can prioritize their own service as they want. Google has been on that path for a long time by offering both content, with YouTube videos, and with its Google Fiber buildouts of 1 Gbps connections, first started in 2012.

Bill Menezes, an analyst at Gartner, said it's unclear how eventual FCC regulations might treat wireless traffic as it moves from a user's smartphone or tablet to a base station where the traffic joins the wired network.

Still, there's no question that AT&T is trying to cash in on Gartner's forecast of big increases in video collaboration services sold to businesses in the next few years.

For Sprint, there's been a clear focus on adding services for businesses, especially in recent months, as subscriber numbers have declined.

By offering UberConference, "Sprint wants to offer a complete customer care solution, including customer care for the worker," said Zeus Kerravala, founder and principal analyst with, in an interview. "UberConference comes with a lot of piece parts, and Sprint's offering a full turnkey solution that customers can use and workers can use right away, and that reduces the burden on their IT."

As for AT&T, Kerravala said "it's about time" that AT&T beefed up its videoconferencing capabilities because "video usage is at an all-time high ... AT&T has danced around videoconferencing for a while. It's a big opportunity for AT&T."

In the big picture for all the carriers, "it is strategic for them to find ways to make their networks matter," Kerravala said. Videoconferencing is an especially good service for the carriers to offer because video requires real-time network efficiency and quality.

"With a real-time service like video, the network [from each individual carrier] should matter," he said.


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