"Digital subscriber lines will be one of the most important services local phone companies will have to offer. Of course, a smart marketer would give it a warm and fuzzy name that people could understand," said Jeffrey Kagan, pres- ident Kagan Telecom Associates.
In just the past few weeks, Bell Atlantic Corp., BellSouth Corp., MCI Communications Corp., Sprint Corp. and U S West have announced services that will boost the current speed of Internet connections to the home by as much as 100 times. Other major telecom companies had already announced such services or are working on trials.
ADSL -- asymmetric digital subscriber line -- is the technology of choice for most of the Baby Bells; ION is the acronym for Sprint's Integrated On-Demand Network product. ATM, or asynchronous transfer mode, is the technology ION is based on.
While none of the services will be available for widespread consumer use for at least a year, the telecom companies are already looking at the best ways to market the sometimes difficult-to-explain products.
Most companies are formulating their strategies now in-house, but later plan to use their agencies to develop appropriate messages.
Consumer-friendly tags are one way. Bell Atlantic, for example, has named its ADSL service InfoSpeed.
"This is a targeted marketing challenge because while there is a targeted audience, it's a group with a lot of interesting subsegments," said Amy McIntosh, Bell Atlantic VP-consumer marketing.
Terri Morrow Tansey, Sprint assistant VP-emerging markets, said the company is currently testing and studying naming and branding the service, along with pricing and what kind of applications consumers want.
LEARNING FROM MISTAKES
Analysts said they hope telcos have learned from the earlier marketing failure of another high-speed data service, integrated services digital network.
"I hope they learn their lessons from the debacle of ISDN. They didn't market it well, customer service representatives didn't know what it was and the installers didn't know how to install it. It was the first time they had a new service to market and they all dropped the ball," Mr. Kagan said.