Monday, October 29, 2007

Covad Goes Private

Covad Communications Group has signed a definitive agreement to be acquired by Platinum Equity in an all-cash transaction valuing Covad at $1.02 a share. Platinum Equity is a global merger and acquisition firm. Irrespective of what it means for Covad as a financial asset, it will be interesting to see how Covad and its customers might benefit.

In some ways, Covad is a hard company to explain in simple terms, much as EarthLink is somewhat convoluted. "National local" possibly obscures as much as it clarifies. It provides fixed wireless, T1, DSL, hosted voice, wholesale and retail services. It does operate a national network to service local access markets. It is a small business specialist but has lots of consumer end users. It has lots of central office co-locations. The problem is that all those things get done by other entities as well.

Covad's line-powered voice offering actually is unique in the market. But that's a position praiseworthy and troublesome at the same time. Whether something is "unique" or "odd" is a matter of perspective. There's no question but that line-powered voice is positioned in its own quadrant, as far as mass market voice services.

The issue is how much effort it takes to make the benefits clear to a typical consumer abd whether the benefits are valuable enough to differentiate the offering. Cable companies decided it was a negative to offer anything other than "digital voice" to customers, with no new features. At the other end of the spectrum, hundreds of millions of people had no problem at all grasping what Skype was all about.

Everything in between takes a bit of explaining.

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