Ron Close - Bell Canada's Got Big Plans

Yesterday, I attended a forum put on by Deloitte here in Toronto, where the focus was on trends in communications convergence. It's part of their on going Predictions Series, where they look at various issues in the telecom/media markets. I attended one of these earlier this year where Jim Balsillie of RIM gave a great presentation.

Catherine Mclean had some nice coverage of Ron Close's presentation in today's Globe & Mail. Ron is the President of New Ventures at Bell, and he'll be speaking next week at VON Canada. As Catherine notes, Bell keeps looking for the next big thing, and it appears that will be wireless Internet access, news of which is just days away. Bell and Rogers are in a partnership called Inukshuk, where they are jointly developing a national wireless broadband access network, and will then each try to market it to their customers. If you can ever imagine Verizon and Time Warner teaming up to do this, that's what you have going here in Canada.

Ron had little to say about VoIP, actually. As much we think about it all the time, initiatives in areas like wireless and IPTV are higher priorities, and hold out better returns in terms of revenues and margins. VoIP is a big part of their bundling plans, but as a standalone offering, I don't see it being much of a focus right now.

Aside from Ron, there were two other speakers, both very good. Preceding Ron was Michael Raynor from Deloitte Research. He gave a terrific overview of the challenges all companies have in developing strategies around convergence. Bottom line is there is no magic bullet for this - he cited some examples of Sony products that had great strategies but were market flops - such as the minidisc. Even with the best execution and technology, unforeseen events happen that totally change the equation.

That's just the nature of the tech sector - it's always changing - and maybe there isn't a perfect strategy. However, as Ron pointed out, you still have to place a bet on something, somewhere, especially if you're a public company. You can't be too risky and you can't be too conservative, and that explains why the major carriers have been so slow coming to market with VoIP. Food for thought - really enjoyed it.

Following Ron was Wayne Purboo, CEO of Toronto-based QuickPlay Media. I blogged about them recently, and really like what they're doing. Wayne told me they are close to getting funding, and I'm planning on having a visit with them after VON Canada. Stay tuned.