If you were starting a business and could build your footprint anywhere you wanted, you might very well choose to focus on the country’s largest cities, as the most people live there. In that light, you could get the most bang for your buck as you realize economies of scale.
That train of thought can be applied to the world of cable operators as well. In the past, customers living in New York, San Francisco or Chicago had access to the best cable services and fastest Internet. But now technology has evolved, and even the most rural customers expect the same kinds of services enjoyed by city folk.
From the outside looking in, many users might think that Tier 1 operators—like Comcast and Time Warner—are the providers that smaller Tier 2 and Tier 3 providers follow. But we’re increasingly seeing that the opposite is in fact true.
Smaller providers are able to go through the decision-making process relatively quickly. Whereas Tier 1 providers have to go through painstaking processes to institute change, Tier 2 and Tier 3 operators are able to quickly run trials and tests, discussing the outcome of those trials in a day.
“The agonizing process that large corporate entities must undergo can be expedited,” explains Fritz Amt of CommScope. “The small operators do not have a lot of entrenched perceptions on how to do things. They can very quickly do a trial, and if they find benefits, move out to larger deployment.”
As such, larger operators are looking to smaller operators for ideas on how things should be done just as often as Tier 2 and Tier 3 operators look toward them for ideas. Generally speaking, urban providers are dealing with the same kind of infrastructure in all the cities they operate. The country’s most rural customers are served by a variety of smaller operators who have adapted to many different configurations to stay alive.
Because of this, these smaller operators are looked to for inspiration by the industry’s strongest companies, despite how counterintuitive that may seem at first. In this ecosystem, companies of all sizes take ideas from one another in an effort to provide customers with more affordable, higher quality services.