This article originally appeared in the March 2013 issue of INTERNET TELEPHONY.
The world of communications is changing, and ANPI is changing along with it. And the service provider wants to help its traditional base of customers (independent local exchange carriers), and an entirely set of new ones (enterprises and SMBs), respond to and benefit from recent technological advances, regulatory changes, and workplace trends as well.
ANPI’s new IP network, including strategically placed data centers; its 2010 merger with Zone Telecom; and its expertise in running networks and back-office systems, position the company well to move in this new direction, says President and CEO Dave Lewis, who in recent months has hired on a contingent of experienced staff members to move the strategy forward.
Lewis, who began his career with the Illinois Commerce Commission, started ANPI in the mid 1990s as part of a consulting engagement with the firm GVNW where he served as Midwest vice president and partner in which 10 ILECs hired him to help them diversify their businesses beyond dial tone. That was around the time of the passage of 1996 Telecom Act. Today, however, the impetus for independent LECs to reconsider their strategies is no less urgent.
Indeed, today’s ILECs are faced with the uncertainty of what Universal Service Fund and InterCarrier Compensation reform will bring. But one thing is certain: that rural LECs are going to have to look beyond the friendly confines of their existing product portfolios and geographic footprints to sustain their businesses and realize growth. They need to do that not only to react to USF and ICC changes, but also to address the acceleration of change in how people communicate, notes Lewis. And that change includes the fact that wireline connections continue to drop, while wireless and VoIP connections continue to rise.
ANPI is half owned by a group of 125 small ILECs, and the company is the largest provider of wholesale services to this type of telco, serving nearly 500 of them today. So ANPI’s reason for wanting to help these communications companies recalibrate is clear.
At the same time, like its traditional customer base of carriers, ANPI is working to diversify.
It’s doing that by expanding its customer target to include enterprise and SMB customers. ANPI’s October 2010 merger with Zone Telecom, which moved it into the enterprise space and doubled its revenue, was a significant step in that direction.
“We’re taking progressive steps to become a strong platform provider to the enterprise as well as to wholesale customers,” says Lewis.
“We have revenues north of $100 million, so we’ve achieved reasonable scale. We’re not leveraged, so we’re flexible. And we have strong access to capital,” he says, adding the other half of ANPI is held by a group investors out of Hong Kong that has had past successes in the communications space.
ANPI had $123 million in revenue and $5.5 million of net income in 2012. As Lewis mentions, ANPI doesn’t have any debt, and it enjoys a strong cash on hand position.
At the moment, 70 percent of ANPI’s revenue comes from wholesale customers, while the other 30 percent is derived from enterprise business. Lewis says he’d like to see that flip flop in the not-too-distant future.
Given the enterprise market for hosted solutions and SIP trunking is enormous (estimated to be worth $15 billion), and that it’s only seen 10 percent penetration to date, the opportunity for growth on this front is certainly out there – both for ANPI, and for any wholesale customer that wants to private or white-label its offerings, Lewis notes.
ANPI will serve both business and wholesale customers using its recently completed network, which is powered by equipment from Sonus and BroadSoft (News - Alert), among others. Comprised of switches in Chicago, Las Vegas and New York, and points of presence in Atlanta, Los Angeles Dallas and Nashville, the network can support both IP and TDM traffic, although the company is de-emphasizing its TDM offerings.
What ANPI will emphasize are its SIP trunking connectivity and hosted offerings;Cloud IP PBX, Collaboration, DNS, messaging (audio and video); and conferencing (online audio and video) solutions. SIP trunking will roll out at the end of this quarter, while ANPI will debut its hosted suite of solutions in the second quarter. Lewis adds that many existing carriers with which ANPI will compete try to sell one set of products, and they’re not interested in fractional opportunities, but that ANPI is keen to help prospects with even a portion of their business.
ANPI also is promoting the fact that it offers solutions that integrate with customers’ existing platforms, such as their CRM systems and Microsoft (News - Alert) Office applications. And, Lewis emphasizes, the company can deliver a common user experience – even in environments involving various wireline and wireless devices.
The company will support the more application-oriented services using a combination of its own resources and by working with partners. Lewis explains that ANPI is overlaying its network with feature servers (in Chicago and Los Angeles) so that, in addition to offering SIP trunking and hosted services, it can provide various applications and more integrated and value rich experiences. The company’s diversified PoP structure, he adds, gives ANPI the flexibility to interconnect with a variety of partners that offer complementary services.
In addition to its switching infrastructure, Lewis and his staff note the back-office systems that allow for flexible billing, quick provisioning and efficient troubleshooting are also important parts of what ANPI has to offer. That means ANPI can effectively and affordably scale, Lewis says, adding that would be difficult for a smaller ILEC to replicate. These back-office systems, some of which ANPI is building from the ground up, also can integrate with customers’ existing internal business applications. Lewis says ANPI built its network and back-office infrastructure recently, and after learning from the mistakes of some of its peers, so it understands the value of creating systems that can address fluid business strategies involving the quick introduction and alteration of services and features as needs evolve, and are free from legacy limitations or approaches that hobble the user experience or administrative efficiency.
ANPI in October announced it had hired on Ramprakash Narayanaswamy (News - Alert) as chief information and technology officer. The former 8x8 Inc. CTO, who has 25 years of software and systems development leadership, is now responsible for ANPI’s technology architecture, service suite deployment and optimization, OSS integration, performance calibration, and third-party application solution integration.
This is just one of many executive-level additions ANPI has made in recent months.
David Byrd also joined ANPI in the fall. Byrd previously worked at Broadvox as a marketing executive; he’s also held partner-related vice president position at Telcordia (News - Alert). As chief marketing officer, Byrd is involved in both the wholesale and enterprise sides of the business, and is helping lead the company’s charge to win more enterprise and SMB business.
Ronnie Bailey, senior vice president and general manager of business solutions, will be leading the effort to expand the agent channel and SMB/enterprise sales. Bailey has successfully held executive management roles with GTE, MCI and MCI WorldCom, in finance, product management, pricing and business development, and he served as senior vice president of customer operations for Cypress Communications.
To date, ANPI has relied on channel partners to reach enterprise and SMB customers, but the company aims to build a direct sales force to target the enterprise and SMB set, while at the same time expanding its channel effort. The launch of the first direct sales team, to target the Dallas-Fort Worth area, is slated for April. A second team, in Los Angeles, will hit the streets starting in May. And a third team will emerge in the third or fourth quarter. ANPI is now exploring in what markets it makes the most sense to deploy direct sales teams. As for channel partners, ANPI today has somewhere in the neighborhood of 75 to 100 agents. The goal, Bailey says, is to have several thousand agents by 2015.
In a series of moves that emphasize the company’s ongoing commitment to its wholesale customers, ANPI also recently hired on Randy Lemmo as senior vice president of carrier solutions; Timothy M. Chenoweth as director of carrier relations; and Joel Poythress as vice president of carrier services. Lemmo previously worked at ANI Networks, where he held the positions of vice president of operations and, more recently, COO. Chenoweth has more than18 years of experience operating within the wholesale market segment, having previously managed strategic vendors and purchasing vendor services for Hypercube and ANI Networks in addition to holding various management positions at Verizon, MCI and WilTel. Poythress has in the past worked for wholesale organizations at BellSouth Long Distance and CenturyLink as well as in management at AT&T, BellSouth, Funmobility, Neustar, and Qwest (News - Alert).
ANPI also recently announced the selection of Craig Freeman as senior director of product and access services. In that post, he is responsible for product management for the company’s broadband value-added services and tandem solution. Freeman previously served as general manager of TMP Corp., dba Simmetry Wireless, a GSM cellular carrier operating in west-central Illinois and northeast Missouri, where he was responsible for all aspects of the traditional carrier and wholesale MVNO operations.
Don Kinison also recently joined ANPI, as vice president of business solutions sales. Kinison has 15 years of experience in the telecommunication and wireless industries where he has managed sales teams for various carriers including Cbeyond, Time Warner, CellularOne and Western Wireless.
Edited by Brooke Neuman