February 18, 2019
By Craig Leddy
Welcome to Channel Partners’ new “Cable Connection” column focusing on cable provider developments in business services and channel-partner relationships. Our first column is a roundup of top U.S. cable provider plans and priorities for business services in 2019.
Building on significant growth in 2018, cable providers continue to enhance their network capabilities and expand their product lines. They are building out fiber lines for gigabit internet and cloud support while enhancing existing connections with gigabit coax using DOCSIS 3.1. New managed and hosted services are in the offing, especially security products. The industry continues to seek to move up-market to serve enterprises, highlighted by Comcast Business and Spectrum Enterprise platforms to offer SD-WAN and support virtualization.
Business services continue to serve as a vital revenue driver for cable providers. The top five U.S. cable providers captured nearly $17.5 billion in business revenue in 2018 (see chart to the right) and are poised for further growth. The following provides a brief look at cable providers’ priorities beyond their established product lines of video, data, voice and cloud products. The companies are presented in order of their customer base sizes.
The nation’s largest cable provider is leading the way on cable’s deployment of SD-WAN, as part of its broader ActiveCore SDN (software defined network) platform supported by fiber, Ethernet and gigabit coax using DOCSIS 3.1 technology. To emphasize how enterprises can utilize the platform for remote locations, Comcast is offering a suite of solutions dubbed Branch In a Box, providing branch offices with a complete set of connectivity, security and a platform for cloud and business applications.
“We’re very excited to work with indirect sales channels on SD-WAN,” said Jeff Lewis, vice president of data product management at Comcast Business. Channel partners have the relationships, experience and background knowledge that make them “trusted advisers” to their business customers, he said. (See “Tales from the Front: Cable SD-WAN, One Year In.”)
Look for a new managed security product this year and potential VNFs (virtual network functions) added to the SDN platform. VNF candidates include advanced firewall, security, managed Wi-Fi applications and products by best-of-breed partners.
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Comcast’s indirect sales-partner organization features 11 master agents and thousands of selling partners. The company recently beefed up its channel support by adding 15 inside partners, according to Cary Tengler, executive director, national partner programs, Comcast Business Solutions Provider Program.
Spectrum Enterprise & Spectrum Business
Charter Communications’ Spectrum continues to rank among the leading U.S. providers of fiber-lit buildings and Ethernet services. Lately, Spectrum has been adding gigabit coax capability in the march toward gigabit internet availability across its entire footprint.
Spectrum Enterprise has been carefully developing a …
… hybrid SD-WAN strategy to provide a “white glove” on-boarding and installation process for customers, according to Satya Parimi, group vice president of enterprise product. Spectrum’s forthcoming NFV (network function virtualization) platform is designed to produce application-aware, policy-based networks that autonomously adjust to what’s going on with applications and the network in real time.
Charter Communications runs cable’s largest fiber network, comprising more than 230,000 fiber route miles and serving nearly 200,000 buildings. Last year Spectrum Enterprise committed to investing $1 billion in fiber infrastructure to increase the density of its national fiber network — matching a similar commitment made the year before. (See Fiber Trends 2019: Five Trends to Shape Your Business.)
The company said it also is focusing on providing a client experience that will utilize “experience design, client surveys, data analytics and qualitative research to track, assess and measure emotion, expectation and behavior.” The Spectrum Partner Program works with many national master partners and thousands of subagents to support sales across 41 states.
Cox is building out fiber to strengthen relationships with what Steve Rowley, executive vice president of Cox Business, calls “connected environments,” including businesses in hospitality, financial, health care and government sectors.
“Our focus is on fiber. We love fiber,” Rowley said during a press briefing at SCTE Cable-Tec Expo 2018. Cox Business recently made fiber acquisitions, including dark fiber, to bolster its strategy of hitting $3 billion in annual revenue by 2021, he said.
Last year, Cox acquired RapidScale, a managed cloud service provider, which will figure into channels strategies. Cox initially will serve as a channel for RapidScale, according to Brian Rose, senior director of product development, Cox Business. The company also has three authorized master agents (Intelisys, Sandler Partners and Telarus), approximately 90 authorized selling agents and more than 1,000 referral partners.
Among potential new offerings, Cox has been testing SD-WAN and exploring managed Wi-Fi, security and router products, Rose said during the 2018 Light Reading Future of Business Services Conference. Cox is seeking to partner with best-of-breed tech providers and work with other service providers to foster out-of-footprint partnerships.
Yes, Altice USA really is building a fiber-to-the-premises network. All-fiber symmetrical gigabit service went live on Long Island in New York last fall and preparations are underway for further deployment. For businesses, the company already was well versed in fiber through the Lightpath fiber network business started long ago by Altice’s successor, Cablevision Systems.
Altice plans to expand business offerings with hosted and managed services, starting with new security and business-continuity products, according to Hakim Boubazine, co-president and COO of Altice USA. Altice Business will use DOCSIS 3.1 gigabit coax in certain situations, but its primary focus is on fiber, which Boubazine said will benefit both enterprises and SMBs alike through its capability to provide symmetrical gigabit speed.
Altice is focusing on “three pillars” of its business foundation: network experience; product and service bundles; and customer experience management, Boubazine said during the Light Reading conference.
One of Altice’s biggest initiatives this year will be the launch of …
… a consumer mobile service through an MVNO (mobile virtual network operator) relationship with Sprint. And with opportunities looming for cable to backhaul 5G communications for mobile carriers, Boubazine noted that Altice Business already has transport experience through its deployment of about 15,000 small cells for current mobile services.
Mediacom Business, with a customer base primarily in the Midwest and Southeast, embarked on a project dubbed Open Road to build to more businesses that are “on-net or near-net,” meaning their facility has Mediacom’s wires connected or nearby. Mediacom operates a Gigabit+ fiber network and it has been an industry leader in rolling out DOCSIS 3.1 gigabit coax.
To facilitate those connections, Mediacom is developing an automated service-delivery process that its channel partners can utilize, said Dan Templin, senior VP, Mediacom Business, in an interview. A service portal will include a simplified ordering process, asset database and a quotation engine, he said.
In addition, one of Templin’s goals is to work on ways that cable companies and channel partners can serve customers across different provider footprints. Like his cable brethren, Templin also wants to motivate SMBs to switch to cable from T1 lines, which tend to be more expensive and provide far less speed.
Mediacom plans to expand managed services for SMBs, including a managed Wi-Fi gateway that supports managed voice, multiple SSIDs and different levels of security and access. It’s exploring SD-WAN, initially by enabling third-party managed solutions. Plus, the company is eyeing fixed wireless as a cost-effective way to provide businesses with wireless internet using 4G LTE small cells, which Templin said can be easily switched to 5G. As Templin noted, it’s an innovative step and “channel partners often don’t think of us like that.”
Movers & Shakers
Altice’s Matt Grover
Altice Business has a new chief: Matt Grover, who in January was named executive vice president and head of Altice Business Services, responsible for all commercial products from enterprise to SMB to carrier. Grover, who reports to co-president and COO Hakim Boubazine, first joined the company’s Lightpath division in 2001 and previously oversaw nationwide sales, including direct and partner sales channels.
RapidScale, a Cox Business company, named John Rinehart as director of client experience. Formerly president of celito.net, a Raleigh, North Carolina-based provider for local businesses, Rinehart is responsible for all aspects of management and support of cloud-based solutions for customers.
Spectrum Enterprise has partnered with Moviebeam, a nationwide video systems integrator, to offer hotels Spectrum’s Fiber Connect Plus TV high-definition TV service and Moviebeam technology to deliver a customizable experience.
Navisite, a part of Spectrum Enterprise, has been recognized as a Microsoft Azure Expert Managed Service Provider. With the certification, Navisite joins a select group of Microsoft Azure MSPs with proven credentials in migrating and managing mission-critical enterprise workloads in Azure at scale.
Cox Business has been named as the technology provider for the BOK Center, a 19,199-seat arena in Tulsa, Oklahoma, as well as Las Vegas Ballpark, a new 10,000 stadium for Triple-A baseball. In Tulsa, Cox is installing nearly 300 Wi-Fi access points; it tested the network’s mettle during a recent Metallica concert, during which more than 2 TB of data were consumed. That, however, pales in comparison to the 43 TB of data that Cox said it handled during CES 2019, where the company supplied the Las Vegas Convention Center with two 10-gig networks and 2,100 Wi-Fi access points.
Craig Leddy is a veteran cable industry writer, speaker and market analyst, and a contributing analyst for Heavy Reading, an Informa property. Leddy founded Interactive TV Works, a media consultancy, to promote understanding of advanced digital services. He is a former editor of Cablevision magazine, senior analyst for The Myers Group and contributing editor for Multichannel News. He teaches the popular How Cable Works industry courses that include CTAM’s Advance Executive Education. He also founded and hosts the Interactive Launch Competition, a leading case study contest for business students. Follow him on LinkedIn or Twitter.
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