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Broadview Taps Agents for Nationwide VoIP Rollout

Broadview Networks is taking its hosted VoIP service national along the road less traveled — it’s not simply riding the public Internet, but a fully managed IP MPLS backbone. On the sales side, it’s taking an easier route, enlisting the channel to evangelize the virtues of its OfficeSuite service.

Broadview has been offering OfficeSuite since 2005 in its 12-state territory covering the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions. As of Aug. 31, it was available in 42 additional LATAs for a total of 57 LATAs. One of the differentiating features of the service always has been that it can be delivered three ways: BYOB or T1 DIA over the public Internet or via a private IP network. Rather than rollout the service half-baked, the company’s executives decided to wait until it could provide quality of service and class of service controls across the country.

To do this, the company has forged agreements with underlying carriers willing to offer Option B network-to-network interfaces that match transfer QoS and CoS, explained Broadview COO Brian Crotty. As a result, he added, “We can offer full SLAs anywhere nationwide. So your phone calls would never go over the public Internet.”

Furthermore, Broadview has expanded its switch routing capabilities to accommodate the expected increase in traffic and also arranged for local number and E911 across the country.

Crotty said beefing up the network was a major part, but not the only part of preparing to take the OfficeSuite product nationwide.

To give it more control over its service, Broadview announced Aug. 5 its intent to acquire the software and source code behind OficeSuite from Natural Convergence Inc. (NCI). Broadview has been licensing NCI’s Silhouette hosted VoIP application since 2004 and worked closely with the platform vendor on developing services and features for small and midsized businesses. In addition to allowing Broadview to respond to customer requirements, the NCI platform will be a “building block” for the carrier to offer fixed mobile convergence applications.

Crotty said Broadview already had designed ordering and provisioning processes that would scale, enabling it to turn up thousands of OfficeSuite stations a month. To date, it has more than 30,000 stations deployed. What it didn’t have was a nationwide field force. That it plans to deliver through outsourcing contracts as it has done within its legacy footprint. No vendors have been announced publicly.

Similarly, it must develop a national sales force. Again, it’s using a proven strategy — indirect sales. Crotty said agents drive about 40 percent of Broadview’s sales (50 percent of new sales) — a number he expects to necessarily increase as the company comes to rely more heavily on the channel for sales outside its legacy footprint. As a result, the company is changing its sales reporting hierarchy by adding a second executive-level sales position specifically for the channel and reporting directly to Crotty.

Broadview in mid-August tapped Christopher Eldredge for the new role as executive vice president of alternate channels and carrier sales, overseeing the agent and wholesale sales operations. Prior to joining Broadview, Eldredge was corporate vice president of carrier sales and service for Frontier Communications. In previous posts he worked for Optimum Lightpath and Qwest Communications International Inc. Robert Westervelt, vice president of alternate channels, will continue to have oversight of the agent channel, but will report to Eldredge.

Broadview has more than 50 dedicated people supporting the channel in addition to staff supporting across channels. Crotty said over the past nine to 12 months, its channel staff has been increased in number and skill level such that it has the capacity to expand nationwide. The company will be assigning channel managers geographically. And, Crotty said as the need grows, new staff will be added.

Can Broadview make the leap from regional to national provider? “There may be some bumps in the road with this rollout, but I am confident that Broadview will ultimately deliver a great overall experience with this national offering,” said Vincent Helfrich, vice president for master agency TeleDomani Inc.. “From my experience, Broadview has a great ability to listen to its agents and customers, and take action to correct any issues that negatively impact our experience.”

TeleDomani has been a master agent for Broadview since 2002. It has been selling OfficeSuite since its inception, and has approximately 1,000 stations sold. The agency also is a beta customer and still uses the service in its offices today. Helfrich said OfficeSuite has been successful for many of the larger multilocation customers. However, he said Broadview’s regional footprint has been limiting when a national company is looking for a single solution to tie in all of its sites. “[The national rollout] will allow us to introduce this product to a much larger base of customers,” he said.

Broadview plans to rollout the service to its indirect sales channels at the Channel Partners Conference & Expo, Sept 23-25 in Miami. At the same time it will introduce an enhancement to the service, a USB-based softphone that enables subscribers to use any desktop or laptop computer as an OfficeSuite terminal.

OfficeSuite is sold based on the number of handsets and simultaneous calls a company needs. Additional Internet bandwidth, optional features and related services (e.g., MPLS and firewall) can be added. Significantly, customers do not purchase the hardware; that’s included in the monthly recurring charge, Crotty explained. Agents are paid upfront and residual commissions on OfficeSuite sales.


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