Industry Executives Share Strategies for Surviving Consolidation

Consolidation among telecom service providers is shrinking channel partners supplier pool and, in some cases, resulting in programs that are less than partnerfriendly. Join carrier and partner executives as they discuss the changing competitive landscape, evolving attitudes about the value of the channel and ways the channel can remain a vital partner for both carriers and customers over the long term, during the kickoff general session, Executive Roundtable: Surviving Consolidation.

Mergers between the countrys largest telephone companies are a primary topic of conversation among channel partners. Industry consolidation is likely to continue, but where will it stop? Is the AT&T Inc./BellSouth Corp. deal a foregone conclusion? Will Qwest Communications International Inc. be a target? What will happen to Sprint Nextel Corp. or XO Communications Inc.?

Even some smaller CLECs are merging and raising concern among the partner community. Take the late July acquisition of Xspedius Communications LLC by Time Warner Telecom Inc. Xspedius agents worry that Time Warner Telecom will upset the Xspedius program, which they view as a strong one, in favor of its newer one. While this deal is not yet closed and the companies are tightlipped about their plans, the questions are no less valid. And, they are not unique to this deal. The Verizon Communications Inc./MCI Inc. pairing has raised similar concerns that remain unresolved. Verizon is trying to sort out its program and, at press time, had not finalized its structure or terms.

The channels primary concern, of course, is how the surviving entities handle the agent relationship. But will a shrunken supply pool inherently have less need for an indirect sales force? In that case, how do partners retain their value? And, how do they choose which carriers big and small to represent? What should agents look for in a partner program? And, how do they find safe havens with the vendors they do represent?

These questions and more will be part of the Executive Roundtable, which will include both carriers and agents in an interactive session. Greg Praske, co-founder and CEO of ARG, and Geoff Shepstone, president and owner of Telecom Brokerage Inc., will represent the agent community. Meanwhile, the carriers will be represented by executives from several companies that have merged or presently are merging with other companies. These include Jim Delis, president of indirect sales at XO; Stephen Rowley, vice president of indirect partners channels at Sprint; and Ken Bisnoff, senior vice president of strategic opportunities for TelePacific.

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