CenturyLink Goes Beyond Gig for SMBs

CenturyLink is upping its game where small-to-midsized businesses are concerned, today announcing fiber-to-the-premises connections in 17 states that will bring symmetrical gigabit services to almost a half-million SMBs.

On top of that faster Internet, the service provider is offering business-specific IT and communications service packages designed to drive more revenue and customer loyalty in the highly competitive SMB space. (See CenturyLink Expands Business Gig Service in 17 States.)

At the heart of today's announcement is an expanded FTTP network in nine of the 12 states where CenturyLink Inc. (NYSE: CTL) originally deployed and additional first-time deployments in five more states: Iowa, Idaho, North Carolina, Ohio and Wisconsin. The 490,000 SMBs that can now access the gigabit services are near enough to a CenturyLink access fiber to be served within 90 days of ordering, says CenturyLink CMO Shirish Lal.

"This isn't a tall, shiny building approach," he adds. "We'll go past some tall shinies, but this is designed to get out to the single-site businesses, to the SMBs, including some very small single sites."

CenturyLink faces competition in the SMB space from cable operators within its footprint, and those companies have been very aggressive in courting small businesses with higher-speed Internet options than traditional telco DSL can provide. CenturyLink isn't just fighting back with gigabit speeds, however. Lal points to business-specific service packages that the company can deliver over its faster Internet service that are targeting SMBs as well.

"Our flagship service is Managed Office at a single monthly price per desktop," he says. "That includes a managed LAN set up on site, hosted VoIP including phones and a set of software-as-a-service offerings including Office365, all designed to make employees more productive."

Want to know more about CenturyLink Cloud's strategy? Come hear CTO Jared Wray deliver a keynote address at Light Reading's Big Telecom Event on June 9-10 in Chicago. Get yourself registered today or get left behind!

The range of additional services that CenturyLink can offer includes managed firewall, colocation and cloud services for both single-site and multi-site SMBs that may want things such as analytics, disaster recovery and managed security, and managed LANs and WiFi networks. Because it already partners with software players such as Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT), CenturyLink can bring business-specific apps to SMBs on a service basis at better prices than they can get on their own.

Many smaller businesses want the same level of sophisticated IT services that larger companies enjoy but don't have the scale to do it themselves cost-effectively, Lal says. CenturyLink's plan is to leverage the scale of its global data operations including CenturyLink Cloud and its many data centers, and its software partnerships to bring those IT capabilities to smaller businesses on a service basis at prices that make sense for them.

"We are turning that management capability and the cost-effectiveness of its scale to expose [customers] not just to the infrastructure we own but also to infrastructure on the customer site as well," Lal says. "We can manage that cost-effectively at a scale that is not easy for an SMB to duplicate. We think taking this management scale and bringing more services to small businesses is a unique value proposition."

Most businesses like the notion of outsourcing IT to focus on their core competency, but this is a particularly acute need in the SMB space where there may be less access to IT talent, Lal notes.

In addition to the five new states where CenturyLink is deploying its FTTP networks, it is expanding the reach of existing networks in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah and Washington. CenturyLink also provides 1Gbit/s speeds in parts of Missouri, Nebraska and South Dakota.

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

cnwedit 5/18/2015 | 6:20:37 PM
Re: CenturyLink i think there are some SMBs for which this will be more difficult that others -- certainly specialty firms such as law offices have software that is unique to them. But that doesn't mean they wouldn't like gigabit Internet service or someone to manage their LAN or their in-office WiFi network. 

This isn't an all-or-nothing proposition, by my understanding. 
DHagar 5/18/2015 | 6:18:18 PM
Re: CenturyLink Ariella,  agreed.  This appears to be a good value proposition for those SMBs looking for a "packaged deal" that offers services at an economy of scale.

Although it is true that it may not offer everything, in offering a packaged set of services, it provides a core foundation that may well serve the needs of a large group of SMBs, particularly in the markets that CenturyLink serves.
brooks7 5/18/2015 | 2:10:07 PM
Re: CenturyLink Okay I agree but here is the problem.

Walk into a Law Office and ask them all the software that they use in their business.  The software here is available from literally dozens of suppliers. 

So take a Venn Diagram of the two lists (Century's list and the Law office list).  You will find that there is a gap between the lists and that the Law Office uses a lot more than Century offers.   So, these SMBs don't actually get all the IT functionality that they need.

On top of that VoIP, Comm Services in General, Office 365 and Storage are available from about a bajillion suppliers including Microsoft.  And that is the other problem with the SMB market.  It is a channel problem.


Ariella 5/18/2015 | 1:23:41 PM
CenturyLink "Most businesses like the notion of outsourcing IT to focus on their core competency, but this is a particularly acute need in the SMB space where there may be less access to IT talent," 

I believe that's true, and that approach does make sense.
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