Comcast Rolls Out Metro E, Adds Regional Partners

CHANNEL PARTNERS Less than six months after the controlled rollout of its partner program, Comcast Business Services (Booth #1500 at the Channel Partners Conference & Expo) is adding new regional partners and announcing the availability of its Metro Ethernet services through the indirect channel.

The announcements were made at the Fall 2011 Channel Partners Conference & Expo, which channel chief Craig Schlagbaum called the partner program’s coming out” party, since its the first major channel event the cableco has participated in since the program’s debut.

The Comcast Business Partner Program launched with three national master agencies Intelisys Communications Inc., Telarus Inc. and Telecom Brokerage Inc. (TBI). Now, Comcast is adding eight regional partners with direct agreements, specifically to sell its Metro Ethernet services. The new agents include Lightstream Communications, Salt Lake City; Total Communications Inc.; East Hartford, Conn; Simplify Inc, The Woodlands, Texas; Global Communications Group Inc., Denver; Interactive Telecom Solutions Inc. (ITS), Paramus, N.J.; Crystal Technologies Group, Westchester, Pa.; Bridgepointe Technologies, San Mateo, Calif; CTG3, Bellevue, Wash.; Leapfrog Technology Group, Chicago; and Telegration Inc., Detroit. Schlagbaum said the agents were chosen based on several criteria that included their track record in their region, a solid direct sales force, prior experience with Metro Ethernet, back-office capabilities and a desire to work with Comcast.

Like the partner program launch, Comcast is rolling out Metro Ethernet services to the channel on a controlled basis through its eight regional partners and select subagents of its exclusive master agencies. Schlagbaum said the controlled rollout is to make sure that the processes are in place since the product is new to Comcast and to the channel.

Comcast began rolling out its Metro Ethernet services in mid-May in more than 20 major U.S. markets, including Atlanta; Baltimore; Boston; Chicago; Denver; Detroit; Harrisburg, Pa.; Hartford; Houston; Indianapolis; Jacksonville; Miami; Nashville; State of New Jersey; Oakland; Philadelphia; Pittsburgh; Portland; Sacramento; Salt Lake City; San Francisco; San Jose; Seattle; Washington, D.C., and western New England.

We are going to focus on a select number of markets initially where we know that we have good coverage and support for the channel,” Schlagbaum said. Schlagbaum declined to name the selected markets in an advance interview with Channel Partners, but hoped to share the information at the Channel Partners Conference & Expo.

We are going to go cautiously and work with select partners and select opportunities so that we can provide a good customer experience and a good partner experience,” he added. “As we get more comfortable, we will open up to more markets and more opportunities.”

Schlagbaum said he expects to open Metro Ethernet services for sale by more agents in 2012. Its a walk before we run strategy to make sure that we are ready,” he said. This is immeasurably more complicated and a very different product set than our coax services and it requires significantly more heavy lifting.”

Comcast’s Metro Ethernet services are targeted at midsized businesses between 20 and 500 employees and geared for customers with multiple locations and high bandwidth needs. Comcast said it offers three different classes of service and delivers bandwidth from 1MBps up to 10 GBps. Bandwidth can be remotely scaled in increments of 1MBps, 10MBps, 100MBps or 1GBps. The services are available in four versions as Ethernet Private Line (point-to-point), Ethernet Virtual Private Line (point-to-multipoint), Ethernet network Services (multipoint-to-multipoint) and Ethernet DIA.

We believe that with all the changes going on in the high-tech industry with cloud computing, and business continuity and disaster recovery, and software as a service, and video conferencing, that customers will want to move to this service more and more,” Schlagbaum said. At the same time, our services are aggressively priced and offer customers an opportunity for savings.”

He added that moving to cable also offers a completely separate network, which gives channel partners an alternative to telco and CLEC networks.

Ed O’Connor, vice president of technology and sales for Total Communications, told Channel Partners that adding Comcast to the company’s portfolio “provides a significant opportunity to address unique requirements.” Total Communications offers supplier-neutral network recommendations to its customers and has been selling Metro Ethernet services from other telcos and cablecos for more than five years. O’Connor is expecting good reception in the market for the Comcast Metro E service based on positive results with other Comcast products thus far.

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