CHANNEL PARTNERS — Comcast Business Services announced Monday at the Channel Partners Conference & Expo the controlled introduction of its first national Solutions Provider Program, a move that the telecom channel has long awaited as a source of true diversity and brand-name competition to the telcos.
As part of this limited release, the cableco has contracted with three national master agencies – Intelisys Communications Inc., Telarus Inc. and Telecom Brokerage Inc. (TBI). Comcast will be ready to process orders from subagents as early as March 22, said Channel Chief Craig Schlagbaum in an advanced interview with Channel Partners. He noted that agents be able to sell business-class Internet (up to 100mbps down/10mbps up) and voice services; later, the company hopes to add metro Ethernet.
“This is significant for the channel. It isn’t too often that a $70 billion company [Comcast Corp.] enters the channel and launches a partner program," said Mike Saxby, chief strategy officer for TBI, a master agency that has been selling cableco services from Time Warner Cable Business Class for a few years and from Charter for the past six months. “This means our partners and the channel will have more choices. Comcast providing alternative access to the premises gives the channel increased end-user opportunities."
Executives at all three master agencies now representing Comcast pointed to the initial opportunities to sell Comcast’s services for disaster recovery and lower price point, but noted that long-term the attraction is being able to sell more complex services, such as Ethernet and fiber, as primary services.
“While many agents will go hog-wild selling the SMB solutions, there is a huge wave of metro Ethernet opportunity headed our way when Comcast opens up the complete pantry of its enterprise products to the agents. That is where many up-market agents will score the large MRC deals," said Patrick Oborn, vice president of marketing for Telarus. Telarus is new to selling cablecos services; it’s only prior deal with TWCBC began in February. The delay, said Oborn, was reengineering its quoting and ordering systems to fit the cableco model.
“Unlike other typical carrier relationships, Comcast is initially going to be outsourcing a lot of responsibility to its pilot master agents. We are going to be the ones responsible for quoting, order paperwork, and order submission," Oborn added. “Comcast has trained our staff and given us access to the tools we need to make it all happen, now it's just a question of execution."
Jay Bradley, president of Intelisys, said it’s important that “we get it right and provide a viable telco alternative." Intelisys has been selling cablecos services, such as TWCBC, Cablevision and Charter, for about three years, but it has been lobbying Comcast to embrace the channel for four years. “It means a lot to us that we would be part of the launch," he said. Bradley is optimistic the other long holdout, Cox Communications, also will come to the table with a national partner program. “We’ve had some nice successes with our cable partners," he said, noting that it’s been a learning curve since cablecos have different processes than telcos and also are new to the channel.