Is the telecom spending landscape finally changing?
Verizon Communications Inc. has announced plans to spend $3 billion over the next two years to speed up its networks and build a national next-generation wireless network to attract greater numbers of customers and businesses that are demanding faster Internet speeds and more services.
So does this signal an end to the decline in spending on telecom in recent years?
Verizon, the nation’s largest phone company, with more than 30 million residential and 3 million business customers, says that it plans to spend $1 billion on its wireless network and $2 billion on its wire-line networks. Some analysts said that this would force rivals to respond.
One of the new services Verizon will be rolling out this year will be built around a new software platform dubbed “iobi.” According to The Boston Globe, Verizon plans to begin rolling out iobi in larger markets, possibly including greater Boston, in the first half of the year, followed in the second half by its “Verizon One” telecom console, which features a touch-screen computer, cordless phone and high-speed Internet access and wireless home networking router. Where and when the services will be deployed, and how much they will cost, have yet to be determined.
Many of the specific features of iobi have been available for a few years, including “find me/follow me” phone services that can ring home, office and wireless phones simultaneously to help people avoid missing calls, and so-called unified mailboxes that can bring in voice mail as sound files in an e-mail inbox.
These new services would enable people to do things such as:
– Schedule times to divert phone calls from a wireless phone to a home line or vice versa
– Build an on-line directory of contacts by saving numbers from caller ID and place subsequent phone calls just by clicking on a name
– Have a short text message sent to their wireless phone when a specific caller has left a voice mail for them
– Record short voice messages and send them to several recipients simultaneously as one-way phone calls
– Have a voice mail automatically transcribed into text and sent to a handheld Blackberry communications device or e-mail account.
Engineers at Verizon’s Waltham, Mass., labs have apparently handled much of the research and development work on iobi and the Verizon One unit.
Besides the innovations on the phone and e-mail side, Verizon also said it plans to begin expanding availability nationwide of an $80-a-month high-speed wireless data service it began offering in the Washington, D.C., and San Diego metropolitan areas last summer.
Called Broadband Access, the service offers peak data speeds of 2 megabits per second, comparable to a cable modem or digital subscriber line broadband connection, and typical coverage at 300 to 500 kilobits per second. Verizon estimates that it will spend $1 billion expanding Broadband Access, a significant portion of which could go to start-up Airvana Inc. of Chelmsford, Mass., which makes key components and software used to upgrade Nortel Networks’ wireless base station gear for the service.
The number of high-speed lines connecting U.S. businesses and homes to the Internet jumped 18 percent, to 23.5 million lines, during the first half of 2003, according to statistics recently released by the Federal Communications Commission.
High-speed Internet service via cable showed a 20 percent jump, narrowly outpacing the 19 percent growth in digital subscriber lines offered by traditional telephone lines, according to the FCC.
All told, 13.7 million lines were served by cable vs. 7.7 million DSLs. All but 3 million of the lines serve residents and small businesses and a solid majority — 16.3 million lines — were receiving service at speeds exceeding 200 kilobits per second in each direction. Overall growth for high-speed Internet lines for the 12 months ended June 30 was 45 percent.
The estimate of the cost to decommission the Seabrook nuclear plant has fallen slightly since the last in-depth study was conducted five years ago.
The estimated cost to decommission the plant in 2026, the year the plant’s Nuclear Regulatory Commission license expires, is now $599.7 million in 2003 dollars, compared to the earlier estimate of $602 million in 2003 dollars.
FPL Energy Seabrook, owner of 88 percent of the plant, told the New Hampshire Nuclear Decommissioning Finance Committee that it intends to seek a license extension from the NRC, though it has not yet done so. Improvements in the disposal of low-level nuclear waste and a change in standards for the future use of the property contributed to the change in the estimate.
The Legislature changed the law in 2001 to say that the site only has to be restored to commercial use, while the former law said it had to be restored to greenfields, or the marshland it was before.
In addition, as compared to five years ago, any items that come in contact with radioactivity but are not radioactive no longer have to be disposed of as low-level nuclear waste. The NDFC is estimating that the disposal site for high-level nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain in Nevada will not open until 2016 and that Seabrook could not ship high-level waste to the disposal site until 2026 because of its place on the list of high-level producers and when its high-level waste will be accepted at Yucca Mountain. This means that more storage for spent fuel rods must be built on the site than last estimated. nhbr
Doug Patch, former chairman of the New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission, is with the Concord law firm of Orr and Reno.