Outlook 2013: Cable Communications

SMB Bundles, Enterprise Ethernet Top Picks for Partners

Cable communications are gaining market share among businesses and mindshare among the channel. Both are due to intensified efforts on the part of the cablecos to target both groups. In 2012, all of the top five cable companies have rolled out a footprint-wide channel program. All are making investments in supporting the channel as well as upgrading their product portfolios to include not only high bandwidth connectivity but hosted voice and managed IT services that will make them increasingly fierce competitors to the telcos, particularly in the SMB market.

Market Opportunity. ATLANTIC-ACM forecasts cable companies’ share of the wireline business telecommunications market will grow from 5.2 percent in 2010 to 13.6 percent in 2017. The research firm said cables simplified Internet/VoIP bundles have helped it gain share in the small business market, but their growing expertise in the Ethernet will help them expand upmarket.

Industry Predictions. Cable communications analysts, providers and channel partners are in agreement that cablecos will continue to take share in the SMB space with the coax bundles and will grow their Ethernet services portfolios. In some cases they will grow their product sets and their footprints by acquisition. There was general optimism that cablecos would strengthen their commitment to the channel with more robust sales-enablement tools but also some fear that they may reverse course à la other large service providers.

“The cable MSOs will continue their deployment of Ethernet-based services, including IP VPN and MPLS-based networking offerings. … We expect cable companies to aggressively deploy Ethernet over coax to connect suburban areas to downtown urban areas and begin offering cost-effective private networking.”
NPRG’s Craig Clausen

“Some purchases of smaller players [will] extend their reach and expertise in the SMB space.”
ATLANTIC-ACM’s Dr. Jury Reed Smith

“Cable will aggressively grow its sales channels and invest heavily in building its plant out to reach new business prospects.”
Time Warner Cable Business Class’ Brian Snortheim

Channel Opportunities. Our panel cited continued opportunities to service SMBs but greater growth opportunities in delivering high-capacity connectivity in support of cloud and distributed networks. They also said voice services PRIs, SIP and hosted PBX were going to be big opportunities for cable channel sales next year.

“The demand for bandwidth is exploding with the many cloud offerings that are being deployed. Yet not all businesses are recognizing the impact to their existing networks, and that’s where channel partners come in.”
Comcast Business Class’ Craig Schlagbaum

“The fiber owned by the cables will become more and more appetizing to higher-end clients, data centers and other high-capacity bandwidth users accustomed to sourcing through the CLECs and ILECs.”
Telarus’ Patrick Oborn

“During 2013, channel partners will be in an increasingly better position to work with smaller midsize businesses … that have higher-end requirements but not higher-end pocketbooks. Cable companies will be hungry to address this space and anxious to secure wins.”
NPRG’s Craig Clausen

Channel Challenges. While the potential for channel sales of cable communications services is clear, it is challenged by several things not the least of which are the cablecos’ own limited footprints, which inhibit multilocation sales; manual quoting/ordering processes, which delay sales; disruptive pricing, which can lower partner commissions and incentives to sell; and mixed signals on channel commitment and conflict. Education for partners and customers on the cable value proposition also was considered an obstacle by our panel.

“One of the biggest challenges is the difficult task of changing the way customers and IT managers think about cable companies [as backup providers].”
TBI’s Ryan Schenkel

“The rules of engagement between the channel and direct sales can be problematic, often putting the end customers in a tug-of-war.”
Telarus’ Patrick Oborn

“Beware of cable changing channel rules in 2013 and acting like Verizon [or] AT&T.”
Rad-Info’s Peter Radizeski

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