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Convergence is About Confusing Technology

International Herald Tribune reports that for European telecommunications companies, marketing used to be fairly simple. Back in the days of state-sponsored monopolies, they didn't really have to do it at all. Then, when telecommunications markets were liberalized, new brands sprang up, each selling a specific service to consumers: Orange or Vodafone became synonymous with mobile networks, Tiscali and Wanadoo with Internet access, for instance.

But now things are more complicated, as telecommunications providers aim to sell a new, less palpable idea called "convergence." This concept took a step forward in France and Britain when a diverse range of France Telecom units, including mobile, broadband Internet and business services, "converged" under the Orange brand name.

Of course, many other operators are piling in with converged offers of their own. From a marketing perspective, convergence might seem like a no-brainer. Instead of forcing consumers to deal with different providers for fixed and mobile calls, broadband access and pay television, it allows them to write one check and deal with one customer-service team for complaints. Yet the selling of convergence has not been as seamless as it might seem.

The biggest problem, analysts say, is that telecommunications executives are mostly programmed to think about technologies, rather than consumer benefits. So when technological options multiply, telecommunication companies see new opportunities, while consumers just see a proliferation of jargon.

"If you're in the industry, you love this kind of thing," said Mike Cansfield, head of telecommunications strategy at Ovum, a consultancy. "But telcos have to learn how to articulate what these things mean and what the benefit is for a consumer - be it at home or in business."

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