Convergence evolves from buzz word to market reality

Everyone has been talking about convergence for years, but 2005 was to be the year convergence moved from the marketer's lexicon to wireless market reality. We predicted that convergence would show up in two ways: the quadruple play and the combination of cellular and WiFi data access. It did. Sprint signed a huge deal for quadruple play offerings with most of the major cable companies. Sprint and its four partners--Comcast, Time Warner, Cox and Advance/Newhouse--signed a quadruple play deal that will span 20 years! Cable companies moved quickly to launch combined TV, broadband Internet and Internet telephony services starting in 2003.

We had a good feeling about Time Warner and Sprint last year: "The first cable company to make a push for this market will likely be Time Warner, which last week entered talks to launch a wireless MVNO through Sprint." Of course, the MVNO never went through and Time Warner said they'd much rather leave the wireless side of things to Sprint itself.

As for the rest of the quadruple play: VoIP increased its market value this year as eBay shelled out big money for VoIP provider Skype. IPTV is taking off in leaps and bounds abroad, and the U.S. is sure to follow. ISPs took heat from the onset of the muni-WiFi trend as cities and towns across the country looked to their Homeland Security funds and considered deploying citywide WiFi services. The triple play, however, remains largely intact and the quadruple play will replace it for at least the next two decades.