Top 12 Stories in October: Bankruptcy Exits, Windstream Chief, AT&T DSL Flap

A pair of high-profile bankruptcy exits – one done and one pending – continued to make big headlines in October.

The channel wonders what the future will hold for Frontier, as the communications giant prepares to emerge from chapter 11 early next year. Meanwhile, Windstream hopes to turn a chapter now that it is out from behind bankruptcy protection. Will it be a stronger company as it promises? And how will its channel fare?

Windstream also made news last month for introducing a new channel chief. But Brad Smith isn’t the only new channel boss in town. CCaaS provider Ujet also made headlines for doing the same.

There’s little doubt that 5G holds great promise, but the big carriers took heat for the speed of their nascent networks. AT&T also got pressure from its largest union and advocacy groups over discontinuing DSL service.

Want to help determine the top 12 each month? It’s simple. Just read our website and subscribe to our weekly newsletter. What you read determines our rankings!

But which story in October was No. 1? Bankruptcy exits? The 5G controversy?

Once you’ve clicked through the gallery below to see what was No. 1 in channel news for October, check out last month’s countdown featuring SD-WAN and SIP rankings, plus more Windstream.

Follow executive editor @Craig_Galbraith on Twitter.

Datapipe's Robb Allen

#12 — Lumen-Zoom Partnership

There's no arguing the remarkable impact that Zoom has had on both business and consumer technology. So it's no surprise that a new partnership between Zoom and Lumen Technologies (formerly CenturyLink's enterprise business), caught your eye.

In fact, the move should help Lumen close a gap in unified communications with key rivals Verizon, 8×8, Vonage and RingCentral. So says Raul Castanon, an analyst with 451 Research.

“Lumen’s indirect channel will benefit  … by having the option to add Zoom’s collaboration portfolio to their available services portfolio from Lumen,” said Jeremy Dupont, senior product manager for Lumen. “Lumen will be adding additional Zoom services in the future and continue to develop deeper integrations, which partners will be able to offer to customers."

Read more about the partnership and how you could benefit.
Robots Taking Jobs

#11 — Wireless Customer Satisfaction Rankings

Wireless customer service scores are rising for the big carriers during the pandemic. That's according to J.D. Power, which last month released its 2020 Business Wireless Satisfaction Study.

It was another big win for T-Mobile, which garnered better scores than its rivals in the large enterprise, SMB and very small business categories.

Learn who finished in second place.
TetraVX's Kara Korte

#10 — Big Carriers Blasted for 5G Speeds

The big carriers took some heat from MSP Radio founder Dave Sobel, who told them to "compare themselves to other countries." He was talking about their claims about 5G speeds they offer, noting that Saudi Arabia is "14 times faster than you guys."

On the flip side, analyst Peter Rysavy, president of Rysavy Research, said not to jump to conclusions. He cited population density and the fact 5G is still in its early stages.

“The biggest determinants of performance are geography and spectrum," said Rysavy. "The United States has a lower average population density, so it takes longer to achieve the same coverage/performance as denser countries, such as in Asia,” he said.

Learn more about what the hubbub is all about.
TetraVX's Kara Korte

#9 — New Ujet Channel Chief

It's the first of a pair of channel chief moves in our countdown.

Ujet, the contact-center-as-a-service provider, hired Karen Bowman to lead its channel. Readers probably know her from her run as senior director of channel sales at Five9. Before that, she was Serenova’s vice president of channel and partner development. She brings 20 years of experience to her role.

Learn more about Bowman and the partner program that Ujet kicked off in July.

#8 — AT&T Discontinues DSL

AT&T's biggest union had a lot to say about the carrier's plan to discontinue sales of new DSL service. Existing customers will no longer be able to make changes to their service.

The Communications Workers of America and some advocacy groups claim AT&T‘s plan includes disconnecting 160,000 DSL customers. Furthermore, they say only some customers have access to another wireline service from AT&T.

“It is unconscionable that AT&T would disconnect thousands of existing DSL customers, many of whom likely do not have another fixed broadband option, during a pandemic,”  said the CWA.

An AT&T spokesperson told us that customers need access to higher-speed internet for “bandwidth-rich activities” like work, school and entertainment. The carrier continues to make “substantial investments” in wireless capabilities to reach more customers with faster speeds.

Read more about this controversy, then check out AT&T's new 5G coverage map, which also caught your eye in October.

#7 — Channel People on the Move

Our monthly wrap of promotions and new hires in the channel lands at the No. 7 spot. This edition featured changes at Intrado, Fusion Connect, Telesystem and more.

#6 — Gartner's WAN Edge Magic Quadrant

Gartner's popular "Magic Quadrant" for WAN edge was a popular topic last month.

We analyzed what placement in the quadrant means for some of the hottest SD-WAN vendors doing business in the channel. VMware, Silver Peak, Fortinet, Versa Networks, Cisco and Palo Alto Networks all claimed spots in the prestigious "leaders" quadrant.

Read our breakdown.

#5 — New Windstream Channel Chief

Windstream's Brad Smith

Windstream's Brad Smith

There have been a number of leadership changes at the top of Windstream's channel structure the past few years, but the company expects stability with its latest appointment.

Longtime channel vet Brad Smith brings more than 20 years in communications to the job. The company hired him eight months ago as VP of indirect sales. Before Windstream, Smith was president of Managed Communications Group and Fusion Connect‘s vice president of alternate channels. He also had roles at Asentinel and Birch Communications.

Curt Allen emerged from retirement three years ago to take over as Windstream’s channel chief. Matt Milliron was hired as the successor-in-waiting, taking over last fall before Dobson Technologies hired him away as its chief revenue officer last month. Allen moved to an advisory role and then became Vonage’s channel chief this summer.

Get the full scoop on Smith.
Telia WAN Study

#4 — Windstream Exits Chapter 11 

Speaking of Windstream, our story about the company's emergence from bankruptcy protection in September continued to get traffic. The company said it erased two-thirds of its debt and had $2 billion in new capital.

Furthermore, the company is now privately held. We discussed what this means for the channel with Windstream Enterprise's president.
Telia WAN Study

#3 — T-Mobile Shakes Up Compensation, Leadership

T-Mobile, which is making waves in the channel since its merger with Sprint, made changes to how partners get paid. In fact, the company has shifted its compensation structure for both direct and indirect members of T-Mobile for Business.

The carrier is doubling the quota and payout for both, thus encouraging one side to bring the other side into customer deals. But that's not all.

Meantime, T-Mobile replaced channel chief Tim Acker with James Kirby, who will oversee both direct and indirect sales. Kirby hopes the change in structure will encourage a more collaborative relationship between direct salespeople and partners.

Our post from September on T-Mobile's new channel program, which coincided with our Channel Partners Virtual event, also continued to get your attention.
Vitalone, Joe_Extreme

#2 — Apple Devices

Whether for your business or as a consumer, there's a good chance you own an Apple device. The company made headlines in September – and continued to in October – for something missing from its new iPad Air — wireless 5G capability.

Much of that concern started to fade my mid-October, however, when Apple introduced the iPhone 12, which is 5G-ready.
Sanchez, Robert_Broadvoice

#1 — Frontier Post-Bankruptcy

Frontier Communications appears on the verge of emerging from chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. As of Oct. 16, 10 states had approved its restructuring plan.

Frontier, which has a significant channel presence, filed for bankruptcy in April to cut its debt by more than $10 billion. Its goals post-bankruptcy are to be more financially flexible and invest more in the customer experience and long-term growth.

The company now believes it can put bankruptcy behind it early in 2021. Mark Nielsen is Frontier’s executive vice president and chief legal officer.

"Through this restructuring process, we are building a stronger financial foundation to provide a better experience for all our customers," said Nielsen.

Learn more about a post-bankruptcy future for Frontier.

Meantime, a story on Frontier from May continues to get eyeballs on our site. The company sold off its Northwest operations to Ziply Fiber as part of its restructuring. There's a contentious debate in our comments section as to whether customers benefitted.

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