If your company has multiple locations, whether it is 5 or 500, You’ll be faced with the question of how to handle and manage the telecom services providers that you rely on to provide you with data services (Internet and WAN).
The Problem: Not Everyone is Everywhere
The crux of the problem is that you need an Internet Service Provider (ISP) to have a little wire in your buildings, which you can connect to for your data services. You might quickly find out that there isn’t one ISP that is available at all of your locations.
The obvious answer to this problem seems like it should be just work with whatever carrier is in the building. That is one way to solve the problem and sometimes it is the right way. There are two other approaches I will outline here, so that you can make the right choice and your company.
In order to evaluate multiple ways to tackle this problem, I’m providing 1 example to walk through the different options.
Example: Your Company has 10 locations. You need a fiber internet connection to each location.
- Spectrum is the fiber internet provider at 6 of the 10 locations.*
- ATT is the fiber internet provider at 3 of the 10 locations.
- Cox is the fiber internet provider at 1 of the 10 locations.
*Spectrum has the large majority of serviceability here, because I work there and I made up the example.
Additionally, many buildings have more than 1 fiber internet provider. I know this. The example uses one carrier in each for simplicity sake.
3 Possible Solutions To Your Problem
#1 Work Directly with the Individual ISP in Each Building
Working directly with the carrier in the building means exactly what it sounds like. As the person responsible for telecom at your company, you’d call up the internet service provider and say “Hi we’d like to setup a fiber internet connection at (insert your address).”
In this instance you would have 1 account with 6 service locations from Spectrum, 1 account with 3 service locations from ATT and 1 account with Cox.
- No Intermediary: There are no intermediary’s between you and the ISPs. If you have a technical or billing issue, you can call the carrier directly without dealing with an intermediate party.
- Clear Pre-sale Requirements – Telecom can be complex, and when you start playing the game of “telephone” in telecom by putting people between you and your ISP, your message can easily be lost by the time it reaches the right person.
- Implementation: Direct reps will have access to internal teams required to help push deals along in the implementation process.
- Administrative Complexity: With additional sites comes increasing complexity.
- Multiple Invoices: You’ll be getting invoices for each carrier and sometimes multiple invoices.
- Multiple Account Teams: You’ll have multiple account teams to work with.
- Tech Support Complexity: When something needs attention at a site, you’ll need to figure out which carrier it is, who the account team is or what the support line is.
#2: Choose 1 carrier, work directly with them and let them handle the other sites “Type II”.
Using the example given, and assuming you choose Spectrum as your carrier to work with, you would have.
- 1 account with Spectrum, 10 service locations serviced by Spectrum.
How Does This Work?
Most all major ISPs have a “Type II” and “Carrier Division”. Because they so commonly need to get services at a location where they don’t have their own network, they have agreements between one another allowing them to buy wholesale circuits from each other.
This allows a customer to buy a circuit from an ISP at a location where that carrier doesn’t have the network.
On the backend in this example, Spectrum would reach out to ATT and Cox and buy the circuits at a wholesale cost and turn around and sell them to their customer.
- One ISP: As the customer, you are only dealing with one ISP. So you get 1 invoice, one account team and 1 support team.
- Some Direct Relationship: You get to work directly with the ISP for the majority of your sites in this example.
- Simplicity: When attention is needed at one of your sites you immediately know who to call.
- Solid Account Team: This is a great option if you like the particular account team at one of your ISPs.
- Some Intermediaries: You’ve now created an intermediary between you and the ISP providing the service at those sites where you bought Type II. If you are having a technical issues at one of those type II sites than you would open a ticket with your ISP, in this case that is Spectrum. They then open a ticket with the underlying carrier. Now information is relayed back and forth to resolve the issue.
#3 Work with a Telecom Agent
There’s no shortage of telecom agents / brokers / consultants that will happily take on the project of helping you to figure out what carriers to work across all of your locations.
Companies like mine have a department that supports this 3rd party selling model. These third parties find an opportunity and will ask our Channel team to put a quote / agreement together.
- Ease of Shopping: You provide the agent with list of sites and requirements and it is largely up to them to figure out what companies are available, what services are offered by the underlying ISP, compare prices points and they will work with the companies directly and get the agreements prepared.
- Simple Projects: I’ve seen that these 3rd party sellers are at their best when the product requirements are simple. Ex: “We need a 100 Mbps Fiber service.”
- Product Knowledge: As the project gains complexity and requires knowledge of the companies underlying products it can get tougher for agents. They represent lots of companies, 100+ sometimes, so for them to know the product details for each company is not to be expected. Whereas if you are working with a direct rep of a company they should know their product well. *
*In an effort of trying to remain unbiased, that is not always the case. Perhaps you have a great agent and they know the product better than the direct sales reps.
- Post sale treatment of accounts. Because telecom companies have different channels for attracting business, sometimes they have different support models for those customers depending on how they came in. So if you want to make change down the road and call the carriers 800#, it’s possible you will be directed back to you agent. As years pass your original agent may not be in the business anymore or you don’t remember who it was.
- Multiple Invoices / Accounts: You are still getting multiple invoices from multiple companies. As you need support down the road, you will need to figure out who the carrier is and how to get support and make changes.
- Installation Issues – When dealing with an agent, they typically have one contact for each ISP. The agent won’t have direct access to internal teams sometimes needed to push an order along.
Real Life is Not So Clean
In this example I’ve made it appear as if you have the luxury of sitting down, evaluating the best path for your company and proceeding down that track. In real life, I’ve never encountered a scenario that was that easy. Rarely, do you get the opportunity to setup 10 different connections for 10 sites all at the same time. Businesses grow over time, new sites develop with years in between them, and sites can be established by multiple people.
This can lead to a combination of strategies mentioned above. It’s very common that I will work with companies that work directly with some ISPs, have some sites that are type II through another ISP, and have services purchased through a telecom broker for other sites.
There is no right answer here. Do what works for you.