A recent article in FierceTelecom's newsletter highlighted how Cincinnati Bell was enhancing landline service with SMS. To make the service work, you need a special telephone ($29.99), a bundled service involving both DSL Internet and home phone service and then for a $9.99/month, you can send and receive SMS on the home phone. 

Cincinnati Bell promises more integrated features including wireless address books, white pages and email in the future. For incremental $ charges of course.

This is reminiscent of the New Brunswick Tel (now Aliant) service implementation in the mid 1990s: using unused spectrum on the twisted pair plant, they sent data messages to large-screen phones at home. Advertising, News, Sports and other items were broadcast into whole neighborhoods. Nortel made the networking gear, the software and the phones. It only worked in those days as a phone rental because the phones were so expensive. Apparently it was successful for a time when Internet dialup was awkward and painful.

This is also reminiscent of the walled garden model, which really doesn't work in the long run. To create value in the physical connection, Cincinnati Bell has to develop and present applications that users will find valuable and useful. Pricing-wise, the new services must replace some of the value lost as users discover the utility of mobility and VoIP. The business case should be to slow the decline in landline service a la 'REVENUE PROTECTION.' Reduce a 5% decline into a 4% decline is worth a great deal to the phone company, because it's a service you don't have to blow your brains out to deliver. Some of these can and should link up with other networks, but they should be able to deliver informational value on their own.

Landline providers must not sit back and wait for their monopoly to dry up.

They should be thinking of and rolling out services like wake up calls, network clock, time zone change warning calls and messages, remotely visible voicemail (use a browser to see the messages stored in the central office for you) without $10 incremental monthly costs. Of course, advertising jingles delivered instead of dialtone could be scored for discounts – listen to the whole ad and win a 50¢ discount off the monthly bill (provided the advertiser pay s $1.00 for the service).

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