Comcast Business is expanding services and network management offerings to US-based Fortune 1000 enterprises' Canadian branch divisions through an access partnership with iTel Networks.
Although it considered opening its own operations north of the border, the MSO quickly realized the process would be too time-consuming, costly and risky. Teaming up with a Canadian provider was a faster, safer and better path forward, said Glenn Katz, senior vice president and general manager of Comcast Business Enterprise Solutions, in a call with Broadband World News. In iTel, Comcast found a similar-minded provider with wholesale agreements with major Canadian carriers including Shaw Communications, Rogers Communications and Telus, along with about 50 smaller operators.
About 10% of Comcast Business Enterprise Solutions' 500 customers within the Fortune 1000 have numerous branches in Canada, Katz said, but the MSO has been unable to serve them until now.
Through the partnership, Comcast Enterprise US customers with Canadian branch offices will rely on iTel for transport initially. The two providers, both of which have Layer 2 networks and suites of managed service solutions, also will work together to create a managed service offering for these customers, Katz said. It could be the iTel offering, the Comcast solution or a combination of both, he added. Customers, however, communicate with and get one bill from the US-based Comcast Business group they've always dealt with, he said.
"When we get into that next suite, about the managed solutions -- whether it's data services on routers, security, even WiFi and VoIP -- there are different regulatory constraints or challenges with each one of those data services," said Katz.
Though the layering in of additional managed services will come later, Katz believes it won't take long for Comcast Business to either onboard iTel's services or develop a version of their services that are similar to what Comcast Business delivers today in the US.
When Comcast Business founded Enterprise Solutions it decided only to focus on businesses in the US, said Katz. Yet the goal was always bigger, he said.
"We started about five years ago, but it took us a while to build up the organization and the services to be able to service branch locations of Fortune 1000 companies around the United States, around the country, for all their branches. It didn't matter whether they were in Comcast's footprint or not," said Katz. "To do that we build the capability to wholesale all the cable companies. We bought a smaller managed service provider back in 2015 in the US who had contracts with all the other -- about 50 to 60 ILECs, CLECs and smaller, local providers. And we built our own suite of managed wide-area network solutions over the transport -- routers, security, WiFi, continuity and so forth."
To support branch offices outside its footprint, Comcast Enterprise teamed up with operators and telcos including Charter, Verizon and AT&T, he said.
Since Katz' division exclusively focuses on Fortune 1000 and Comcast Enterprise's Canadian partnership focuses solely on these US corporations' branch offices across the northern border, there is a limited -- albeit sizable -- market, he said. However, Katz declined to provide any goals or estimates on the potential scope of this new agreement, citing the newness of the project and noting it marks Comcast Enterprises' first international foray.
Canada will not, however, be the operator's last initiative outside the US. The MSO plans to serve US customers' branch locations around the world. With holdings in Europe, Latin America and Australia, among others, Comcast's reach is far and its ability to partner proven.
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It wasn't long ago that TV was ranked by subscribers as the most important service in the bundle provided by their communications service provider (CSP). Recent research indicates that for nearly three quarters of subscribers, broadband is now the most important service. Broadcast TV is the most important service to only 15% of North American consumers, replaced by OTT video streaming platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime and Disney+. In addition, many different competitors are moving aggressively to stake a claim in consumers' homes.
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