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Summary:

Ivan Seidenberg, the CEO of Verizon, appeared on “The Charlie Rose Show” yesterday talking about the communication company’s plans for global growth, network neutrality and the role of government. For the record, Verizon plans to build out its wireless business internationally within the next 5-10 years, […]

seidenberg_picIvan Seidenberg, the CEO of Verizon, appeared on “The Charlie Rose Show” yesterday talking about the communication company’s plans for global growth, network neutrality and the role of government. For the record, Verizon plans to build out its wireless business internationally within the next 5-10 years, and about one-third of that growth will be through acquisitions. However according to Seidenberg, any buys will wait until pesky regulatory hurdles such as buying an individual wireless license on a per-country basis are taken care of by regional consolidation.

His position on network neutrality was in line with most carriers. He stressed that Verizon has every right to create and deliver content over its pipes. He also said the role of government was primarily to step back and let the capital markets do their thing, but that if it wanted to boost IT spending by mandating electronic health records, Verizon is cool with that.

But it was Seidenberg’s quote about the need for an executive to always be looking ahead that stuck with me. When Rose asked him what happened with rival Motorola (MOT), notably how the telecommunications equipment company could have gone from making a hot phone like the Razr to its current state, Seidenberg said:

“The failure to create new things quicker than the old things eat you alive.”

Coming from a man who is watching his landline business erode as Verizon makes huge investments in both fiber and wireless, this is knowledge Seidenberg has won through actual experience. Om once compared Verizon’s position to that of trying to balance on a high wire while wearing skates. Seidenberg is doing it, but unfortunately for Motorola, Nortel and GM (all companies Seidenberg mentions), not every executive can manage this trick.

  1. It’s difficult to square what he’s saying with Verizon’s current lineup of mobile phones.

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  2. Overall a bizarre interview with the real story existing between Seidenberg’s words. For example, responding on Net Neutrality, he said:

    “We happen to agree with the whole ideas that the network should be open. The Internet should be available. So that anything you want to order from any place and download you can do it. We are for the whole idea of open standards for pulling down information.”

    Then, when Rose pressed him on the type of business Verizon wants to move into next, he said:

    “The things that we would like to do is add value to the network by getting into more applications. So I think if we could find a way to take those communications-based business, software-based business and add a layer… What we would like to be able do is own the rights to distribute any piece of content … that we would pay for the rights to package and bundle it and distribute it. That would give us a new dimension to our business.”

    Had Rose been more savvy he might have pressed Seidenberg about possible conflicts of Interest that would arise when a network provider (and one that pledges to keep the network open) is also offering applications over that network. Will Verizon’s temptation to block competing applications be too strong to resist?

    As Verizon Wireless rolls out the next breed of compatible “smart” phones, we’ll likely see more blocking of competitive applications.

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  3. A stranglove kind of guy you might expect to be at the head of a domestic monopoly that never had to face the kind of competition that GM and Motorola did from the orient.

    His defensive body language and aggressive pauses were amusing but confusing for such an accomplished corporate panjandrum as was his reaction to Rose’s observation about Japan, India and China being ramped up on wireless while IS is backing away from his $20billion bet on FIOS.

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