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Can Open Wireless Counter a Closed Mind?

Predictions were that the winds of telecom sector change would continue to blow primarily in one direction. Google raised a finger into the air and felt the breeze gaining momentum. The result: the Android platform, and the Open Handset Alliance.

While industry consolidation has wrought major changes in the U.S. telecommunications industry service provider segments, the wireless carriers stand out as clear winners, though all segments continue to add new subscribers, according to Insight Research.

The wireless companies will be adding new subscribers at a rate nearly double the overall telecommunications subscriber growth rate. Cable companies are also expected to be big winners as they add telephone subscribers at a rate much faster than ILECs will add pay-TV customers to their networks.

Moreover, the largest telephone companies are expected to continue seeing the gradual loss of subscribers, as wireless calling and cable telephone offers whittle away at their customer base.

According to Insight's latest report entitled "Telecommunications Service Providers Subscriber Growth, 2007-2012" the U.S. network operators are expected to add subscribers at a compounded rate of 3.7 percent between 2007 and 2012.

The report notes that the increase in wireless subscribers is being driven by the rapid adoption of 3G, which came hard on the heels of the explosive growth in voice-only subscribers through 2005. 3G also facilitated wireless substitution, which cut into the dominant carrier subscriber base.

The cable companies, which long enjoyed a first mover advantage in deploying video services and Internet access, are facing increasing competition in their core markets. The number of cable TV subscribers among the top players has declined by about one percent since December 2004, and battle between the cable companies and the telcos over the triple play promises to further cut into their subscriber base.

"The number of subscribers signing up for telecommunications services continues to grow, and at a rate comparable to growth of the GDP, which means the growth is sustainable," says Insight Research president Robert Rosenberg.

"However, the growth in subscribers we are seeing is by no means evenly divided. There are real winners and losers among the segments, though the wireless and cable providers show the best prospects for continuing to add subscribers over time," concluded Rosenberg.

The market study presents the subscriber base for the wireless carriers, CLECs, dominant phone companies, regional phone companies, and cable company segments and forecasts subscriber growth through 2012. This study's main thesis is that the future of any segment is highly dependent upon the actions taken by the competitive service providers -- not the incumbents.

Will the open wireless device, and associated applications, movement be able to overcome the closed minds that envisioned the mobile Internet walled-garden business model? Interesting times ahead, indeed.

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