Cable Business Services

Charter: Cable Can Reinvent Enterprise Services

DENVER -- Cable Next-Gen Technologies -- Cable operators have an opportunity to capitalize on their greenfield position with many enterprises by designing services more closely tied to how those companies actually use their networks, a Charter Communications executive said here today.

Speaking at a breakfast panel devoted to business services, Scott Fairchild, senior director of network products for Charter Communications Inc. , said his company is trying to learn more from enterprises about the customer experience they want, and design its new services around that, rather than mimic the telecom services offered today.

"We want to have a deeper understanding of the customers who are using our services every day," he commented, adding that that may not be the CTO or CMO of an enterprise. "By looking at it from the customer's point of view and identifying needs we can address versus looking at our technology to determine what we can offer," cable has a chance to differentiate its services in an attractive way.

That doesn't mean moving away entirely from table-stakes services such as Ethernet, which Charter and other MSOs already offer, he noted, but it will likely mean looking to trends such as virtualization to help define and refine the services of the future.

"I absolutely think there are opportunities to deliver new products or deliver in a certain way that matches the customer experience that enterprises want," Fairchild said. "We are starting to explore what those might be. We have a different paradigm as a provider -- we are not encumbered by old systems and old ways of thinking. We want to make sure what we offer them is unique and matches the customer experience they want. "

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Fairchild conceded it is early days for virtualization technologies such as SDN and NFV, and didn't want to discuss specifics about how Charter might be using those at this point. But in general, he said, the enterprise market and the network traffic it generates is changing significantly as more applications and data move into the cloud. Instead of needing wide-area network connections between their own data centers and their branch offices, enterprises need more dynamic and on-demand access to a variety of clouds.

"We have great opportunities as we introduce new more sophisticated services in the managed services area to be able to introduce services that are different and better," he said.

He also admitted cable continues to face significant challenges with enterprises, including overcoming cable's reputation for poor customer service, earned in the consumer space. But for larger enterprises, the biggest challenge may be the need to build awareness, he said.

"On the enterprise side, IT managers don't even know in some cases that we as an MSO are in this space," he said.

Jeff Johnson, cable sales director for Accedian , who joined Fairchild on the business services panel, said cable needs to match the growing sophistication of enterprise customers without surrendering the ability to deliver service level agreements, and be able to prove those SLAs. Among other things, enterprises will want service portals that give them greater visibility into their services and how they are performing.

— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading

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