Peter Currie, who was Royal Bank of Canada's CFO until last September, has re-emerged as Nortel's new chief financial officer. It appears to be positive move because Currie was the company's CFO from 1994 to 1997. Currie has a good reputation within Canada's corporate ranks, and his appointment can only give Nortel some much-needed credibility. The big question is whether the CFO job is just a warm-up zone for the CEO job.
Aliant sure has a nice way with the numbers. The company plans to save $40-million a year through a voluntary early reitrement program, and spend $40-million over the next three years to launch an IP-TV service over its high-speed Internet network.
The move into TV is a strategic necessity if the Atlantic Canada carrier wants to stay competitive with Eastlink, the country's seventh-largest cableco, which offers a bundle of TV, high-speed Internet, VOIP and wireless telephony.
Before Aliant became engulfed in the BCE Inc. empire, it was known as NB Tel, and had a reputation for being among the most innovative carriers in North America. NB Tel was playing around with interactive TV service long before IP-TV became the next hot thing for carriers. BCE shelved the project because it owned its ExpressVu satellite service. It's too bad Aliant wasn't left alone to operate as a test lab for BCE and Bell Canada
You knew it was only a matter of time before Rogers started to hack away at CityFido, which it picked up in the $1.4-billion acquisition of Microcell last year. Calling it a redesign – my colleague Tyler Hamilton rightly calls it the “euthanizing” – Rogers took two swipes to CityFido: first, it scrapped the eat-all-you-can plan for $45 a month plan. This has been replaced by a 750-minute plan for $45 and a 1,500-minute plan for $60. second, it shrank the calling zones so that many calls that used to be local will now be considered long-distance. Rogers will happily charge a whopping 50 cents a minute for LD.
CityFido was a huge thorn in the side of Canada's big three wireless carriers – Telus, Bell and Rogers – because it went against the grain of the higher ARPU mantra chanted these days throughout the industry. It was only a matter of time before someone took Microcell down. The sad thing is Microcell was the most innovative player in the bunch. Who knows, maybe Virgin Canada will breath some excitement back into the industry obsessed with meeting Bay St. expectations.
While I'm always leary of industry forecasts, I like to use them to provide colour. Seaboard Research has stepped up to the table with a fresh set of forecasts for Canada's Internet telephony market. Seaboard expects there to be 2.1 million residential customers using VOIP by 2008, compared with a miniscule 32,800 in 2004.
The research firm believes cablecos will dominate the market with about 50% of the market three years from now. While I'm far from convinced about the actual numbers, cable dominnation seems obvious given the country's largest cablecos – Rogers, Shaw, Videotron and Cogeco – will have products in the market this year.
So what do the carriers do? They probably have little choice but to jump on the VOIP bandwagon if they want to compete on price and features. The more VOIP develops, the more you realize it's much more than just a cheap voice application. It's features such as Web-based voice-mail and point-and-click ways to forward calls and do mulit-person conferencing that will make circuit-switch technology pale in comparison.
Apparently, it is only a matter of time before Vonage Canada lets new customers keep their existing telephony numbers when they make the switch from Bell, Telus, et al. This would resolve yet another issue keeping consumers from adopting “independents” such as Vonage. So far, some of the other issues addressed have been back-up power and access to 911 service. It was interesting to see Videotron's new telephony service, which was launched earlier this week, focus on these issues as well as the service's compatability with in-house security systems.
For whatever reason, there's some buzz about Research in Motion becoming an
attractive as a takeover target. It could be RIM's strong growth or simply
investment bankers hankering for more business. Kona Shio, managing partner
with Conscius Capital Partners in Montreal, believes the the most likely
candidates are Motorola, Microsoft and Nokia, who would love to get more
exposure to the fast-growing corporate data market.
That said, Shio believes there is less than a 50% chance that RIM will be an
acquisition play in the short-term. First, there's that vexing legal
skirmish RIM is waging against NTP over copyright infringement. Then, you
must take into account RIM's market cap, which is $13-billion (not taking
into account a takeover premium).
Finally, RIM management own about 18% of the company ,and it's extremely
unlikely co-CEOs Jim Balsille and Mike Lazaridis would be willing to walk
about from their “baby” when there's plenty of exciting times ahead. I mean,
these guys have enough money to finance the generations ahead so why leave
the best job they'll probably ever have in their lives?