What the CenturyLink, Qwest Combo Means for Business Customers, Partners

By Paula Bernier, Executive Editor, TMC  |  May 01, 2011


This article originally appeared in the May 2011 issue of NGN.

No fooling. As of April 1, Qwest (News - Alert) became part of CenturyLink.

For business customers and channel partners of the newly joined entity, the deal means the on-boarding of the former Qwest’s significant data center assets and cloud-based services to the CenturyLink product portfolio; a broader service footprint; and a bigger company with greater financial scale, which can as a result leverage that cash flow to invest in the products and services customers desire, says Christopher Ancell. The president of business markets with CenturyLink also tells NGN magazine that the company expects to introduce new cloud and managed services in the not too distant future.

Going forward, the company’s business markets group – which services both business customers and wholesale customers – will focus on three key areas, says Ancell, who previously held the post of Qwest’s executive vice president-business markets group. That includes Ethernet as an access mechanism; big bandwidth; and managed and on-demand services.

The company expects to continue to expand Ethernet to more markets and major metro areas. Fiber to the cell tower also continues to be a big push for the company on the wholesale side.

Talking about big bandwidth, Ancell references the significant growth in bandwidth demand by the company’s business customers, whose needs on this front will only continue to mount as more video-based applications – such as the ability for businesses to use video to demonstrate their products to customers, for example – come to the fore. To meet these needs, Ancell says, the company delivers pure private line and wavelength services. He also talks about delivering services to “pure IP-type customers” that just want 10gig IP pipes.

And, in an effort to help customers lower their capital expenditures, the company provides managed and on-demand services, including a back-up and recovery service; an on-demand IVR service; and various other services. Ancell notes that all that is part of a larger trend toward IP-enabled services that allow subscribers to consume storage, processing power or whatever resources they require on demand and pay for only what they use. With 17 hosting centers in operation, the former Qwest brought a wealth of assets to CenturyLink, which prior to the combination did not have products or services in the cloud/data center space, although it had been doing work to address business customers’ managed services requirements.

All of the above will be supported over the CenturyLink network, which with the Qwest assets now includes 190,000 route-miles of fiber in 37 states. That combines local fiber from both CenturyLink and the former Qwest, as well as the former Qwest backbone network. For business customers that came from Qwest, Ancell says, this means improved access in areas of the Midwest and the Southeast.

Given wireless has come center stage in recent years, NGN magazine asked Ancell about CenturyLink’s wireless strategy. He says the company will continue its relationship with Verizon (News - Alert), whose wireless services the former Qwest resold. Ancell also noted the trend of wireless providers trying to get their traffic off the radio-based portion of cellular networks as soon as possible.

CenturyLink has been working to educate its direct and channel sales about the deal and what it means for them. Qwest has a history of channel partner relationships, and it will continue that, Ancell says. He adds that CenturyLink does as well, noting that CenturyLink has used the channel to reach customers down market, a strategy the company also plans to continue.

There will be no significant changes in how channel partners are compensated, trained or communicated with under the new company, according to Ancell, who says the company is pushing the message of service as a differentiator. He explains that addresses service in all its forms, including making sure service is available and delivered at the level of quality customers expect, responding to customer concerns in a timely and professional manner, and addressing the specific requests of customers during contract negotiations.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi