Level 3 Communications, Inc., an international communications company, operates one of the largest Internet backbones in the world, connecting 180 markets in 18 countries. The company serves a broad range of wholesale, enterprise and content customers with a comprehensive suite of services including: Internet Protocol (IP) services, broadband transport and infrastructure services, co-location services, voice and voice over IP services, content delivery and media distribution services.
Recently the company announced that it has been selected by Joost to support its Internet television service, providing Joost with network solutions including high-speed Internet access and co-location services in North America and Europe.
I had the chance to catch up with Cary Tengler, Level 3’s director of partner development who told me about the company’s latest initiatives and a bold prediction for where the industry will be in five years.
RT: Please outline your new corporate initiatives
CT: As it relates to the Internet Telephony audience, most notable are a couple of initiatives in our Business Markets group. Through a series of acquisitions, we’ve built a robust enterprise services business. With a corporate commitment to continue to develop that business, we’re building a suite of solutions and targeting a number of vertical markets, including financial services and health care that truly leverages our extensive metro network assets. In addition, we’re reaching out to a number of existing and new technology partners and their channel partners to extend our reach in these markets.
RT: How is IP communications changing your company’s strategy?
CT: Level 3’s was founded in 1998 to build an IP-based network that would provide the basis for IP communications. So I guess you could say that the realization of IP communications as the emerging industry standard validates — rather than changes — our strategy. IP communications are why we built the company.
RT: How has SIP changed communications?
CT: SIP provides the foundation that is enabling the integration of voice and data on an industry-wide level and making the integration tools available to a vast number of service providers, programmers, and even end-users. Historically, voice and data convergence was done in a single vendor environment due to a lack of standard protocols and integration challenges. The combination of SIP and Web services is making convergence a reality today and several of Level 3’s Technology Alliance Program partners have seen a lot of recent success here.
RT: What is the biggest request coming from your customer base?
CT: We’re seeing enormous demand for basic network services like MPLS, high-speed IP, and Ethernet-based services. We’re also seeing lots of interest in video, streaming and content delivery services from both wholesale and enterprise customers. On the voice front, SIP trunking and contact center solutions are very much in demand.
RT: How are you answering their demands?
CT: The industry is moving so fast and change is so constant that we realize we can’t meet all of our customer demands organically. To that end, we’ve been aggressively building, buying and partnering to bring the right services and solutions to market. Over the past 18 months, Level 3 has acquired eight companies or parts of companies and invested heavily in our three partner programs, Master Resellers, TAP, and the Business Partner Program.
RT: What do you think the future of the market is?
CT: We are optimistic about the market. Global demand for bandwidth is increasing, video-centric consumer behaviors will drive even more demand, and we’re now beginning to see business-oriented UC solutions that are affordable and provide a solid ROI to organizations from SMBs to the Fortune 500 enterprises.
RT: How about Microsoft?
CT: In the communications arena, they’ve articulated a software-centric vision for both VoIP and unified communications which is gaining traction with both SPs and end-users. And Gartner recently rated Microsoft very highly in the UC Magic Quadrant. They will be a factor in UC.
RT: How will wireless technologies change our market?
CT: I believe we’ll see mobile phones continue to take market share from landlines due to continued price erosion and convenience. In the enterprise, we’ll see fixed mobile convergence that takes advantage of feature-rich handsets that will enable presence, messaging, video, and collaboration services to be integrated into a wide variety of enterprise applications.
RT: What sorts of things will we be hearing about during your presentation at ITEXPO?
CT: I’m participating in a panel discussion called Streamline and Integrate Your Business Processes, and we’ll be focusing on how companies are deploying unified communications to improve their business results.
RT: What do you want the industry to know about your company?
CT: That Level 3 has moved beyond its historic “carrier’s carrier” business and is now an innovative industry leader in wholesale, content and enterprise IP communications services.
RT: How will communications evolve over the next five years?
CT: We’ll see continued development in unified communications, in particular a much tighter integration with various productivity and business applications. Peer-to-peer technologies will also play an increasingly important role.
RT: Please make one surprising prediction we will see in 5 years?
CT: I believe that three of the top five PBX vendors will no longer be in business — or they’ll be operating a substantially different business than today.