XO, Broadview, MegaPath Talk ‘State of the Industry’ at Channel Partners

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The communications industry continues to benefit from technological innovation and channel partner associations even as the wider economy remains in a spending and hiring slump.

That’s the view from executives of the three competitive service providers on yesterday’s “State of the Industry" keynote panel at the Fall 2010 Channel Partners Conference & Expo at the Gaylord National. Carl Grivner, CEO of XO Communications; Michael Robinson, president and CEO of Broadview Networks; and Bruce Chatterley, president of business markets for MegaPath, all chimed in on Monday on trends from cloud computing to wireless.

Indeed, in and of itself, cloud computing marks “an evolution, not a revolution," said Chatterley. That’s because the so-called “cloud" still needs a pipe as well as security.

That doesn’t mean cloud computing isn’t taking hold among enterprises and SMBs, though. More than ever, businesses need third-party experts such as channel partners, said Robinson, to help them navigate changing technologies. Customers want help running their companies better and, added Chatterley, they look to a “customer-centric" channel to help them achieve that aim. Robinson and Grivner agreed, with Grivner pointing out that the sluggish economy promotes a more customer-focused model. To wit, even though the economy is not improving for businesses, customers still are converting from TDM to IP communications to save money. Robinson predicted that value-added services such as hosted VoIP will continue to gain adoption among enterprises and SMBs, as the economy grinds along.

One of the ways to be the go-to entity for business users is for providers to partner more with one another, panelists said. In past iterations of telecom, each operator wanted to own its own facilities, networks and access, Robinson said. But the communications world moves too fast, he said, so companies must work together particularly as cloud computing, managed services and wireless grow in popularity. That way, no one CLEC will have to try to buy spectrum, build towers or roll out mobile handsets, Robinson said. To be sure, wireless is a critical piece of telecom’s future, said Chatterley, and competitive providers and channel partners alike need to work with it, not against it.

Meantime, XO, Broadview and MegaPath all are hoping for some “decisiveness," as Robinson put it, from the federal government. The FCC has yet to implement key reforms in regimes such as intercarrier compensation, or rule on whether to make Net neutrality law. Whatever the FCC does, CLECs just “want a level playing-field…not a disparity of opportunity," said Robinson.

Finally, each provider said it’s counting on the indirect channel to aid company growth. To encourage such metamorphosis, Broadview, for example, is continuing to hold summits with its partners, and the newly large MegaPath will be integrating the MegaPath, Covad and Speakeasy channels over the next few months, as well as adding features, including a partner advisory board.

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