Copyright 2006 The Denver Post
All Rights Reserved
The Denver Post
July 5, 2006 Wednesday
By Beth Potter
From Lexis Nexis
Qwest is expected to make its existing high-speed wireline TV service available to more customers by the end of the year, according to an industry analyst.
“This is what I’ve heard from them. They’re going to roll it out by the end of the year,” said Jeff Kagan, a telecommunications analyst.
Kagan, who is based out of Atlanta and does some contract work for Qwest, was in Denver last month to talk to company executives.
Qwest spokesman Michael Dunne declined to comment on the TV-service expansion or the timing of the rollout.
The Denver-based phone company already offers TV service in Highlands Ranch and Lone Tree’s RidgeGate subdivision in Colorado as well as in Omaha and Phoenix. But it is provided over new, high-speed fiber-optic lines or over copper video digital subscriber lines, said Vince Hancock, another Qwest spokesman.
Customers in those communities get a set-top box for their TV from Qwest, similar to
what they would from a cable provider.
Everywhere else, however, Qwest is still upgrading its telephone hubs to beef up transmission rates to handle faster speeds required for television service using a set-top box. The company spent $1.6 billion on maintenance and upgrades in 2005 across its 14-state service area, Hancock said.
Qwest also resells DirecTV service as part of its bundle of services including telephone and high-speed Internet.
Company chief executive Richard Notebaert referred to ongoing product developments in TV service during a conference call with investors in early May. But he said the company doesn’t want to talk about what it has to offer until it has a product that actually works.
“Notebaert and his team are not going to make a move unless it can make them money, but they are moving in that direction,” Kagan said.
Qwest marketing people have hinted that the company could be ready to offer more products by the end of the year that will allow customers to do things such as surf the Internet via TV or use a cellphone to watch a video.
“People are looking for integrated solutions with entertainment, wireless, broadband and phone service,” said Stephanie Copeland, vice president of product marketing. “It’s true integration where the product lines blur.”
Qwest has 1 million customers who buy a package of services rather than just the telephone line. It already has deals with content providers for its existing TV service, Notebaert has said.
In May, Qwest got a general TV franchise go-ahead from a consortium of metro-area cities, but specific franchise deals that are necessary with individual cities are still under negotiation.
Denver cable rival Comcast Corp. complained that the phone company wants to “cherry-pick” affluent neighborhoods rather than offer TV service across the board. In response, Qwest said it cannot afford to build a TV network to every home and business.
“Qwest has already shown that they’re going to be changing,” Kagan said. “Qwest is the only stand-alone telephone company, and they’re going to be competing with the cable companies.”
Qwest is as far along in TV product testing as national phone companies AT&T and Verizon, Kagan said. Verizon’s FiOS TV service is available in some cities in Texas.
AT&T two weeks ago said it will sell U-Verse TV services (also Internet-based) to 5,000 customers in San Antonio with between 100 and 175 TV channels for $64 to $114 per month.
Cable TV-only packages with more than 50 channels start at $45.69 a month at Comcast, according to the Philadelphia company’s website.