Global Crossing Puts SDP Into Action

As major carriers such as AT&T Corp. (NYSE: T), BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA), and France Telecom SA (NYSE: FTE) hunker down to work with Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) on developing a cutting-edge service delivery platform (SDP), Global Crossing Holdings Ltd. (Nasdaq: GLBC) is already putting its SDP strategy to commercial use and signing up customers to its Fast Track wholesale service scheme (see FT Commits to MS SDP, AT&T Adopts Microsoft's SDP, and Microsoft Pushes Deeper Into Carriers).

A service delivery platform is an integrated set of software modules that, collectively, enable service providers to launch and manage multiple fixed and mobile services, whether created inhouse or by third-party developers, quickly and efficiently (see SDPs: The Next Grand Design?).

The Fast Track service, launched in late 2004, allows service providers to put their own brand on Global Crossing's IP and data services, and also allows those resellers to deal directly with Global Crossing's provisioning systems, drastically reducing the time it takes to alter or launch a service.

That private labeling capability allows other service providers to sell services such as IP VPNs without having to build their own networks or undertake complex interconnect negotiations with multiple network operators. And it's catching on. Global Crossing has already attracted 27 Fast Track partners, including at least nine in Europe (see Global Crossing Adds Euro Partners). Those 27 include Linx Telecom in northeast Europe, Allstream Corp. in Canada, and India's Sify Ltd. (Nasdaq: SIFY).

Fast Track's takeup, which will be discussed in detail at next week's The Future of Telecom – Europe 2005 event in London, marks an early success in the emerging SDP market (see Carriers Buy Into SDPs and SDP Costs Get a Grilling).

"We don't have the feet on the streets to hit the high-growth enterprise market, where there's growing demand for IP services, so we've had an indirect channel strategy for the past 12 months," says Brian Covney, the carrier's marketing director of indirect channels. "It became clear that a lot of incumbents were retrenching into their home markets," and that created a market for so-called "white-label" services, whereby third-party providers provide either co-branded services or simply sell using their own name only, he says.

The target market is enterprise users with international operations, "medium to large corporates that see IP as the platform for voice and data services in the future," says Covney, adding that Global Crossing relies on the "brand recognition" of the Fast Track partners, which include some Tier 1 European operators, to win the business.

Covney says Global Crossing's SDP, which is based on IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM) software, evolved from a project first started within Frontier Corp., a North American operator acquired by Global Crossing in the heady days of 1999. "It's a home-developed system, not something based on a specific package that was acquired and customized," he says.

At the center of the Fast Track strategy is the uCommand portal, which allows the carrier's partners to view Global Crossing's network, access information about service pricing and availability, and get partner support. The ultimate aim is to develop the portal and the supporting back-office systems so that Fast Track partners can self-provision services in real-time.

That next step would make Fast Track a fully functioning SDP, says Heavy Reading analyst Caroline Chappell, who has studied the evolution of the SDP market in depth. "What Global Crossing has is an SDP at the IT level only. Now it's working to extend that to the network level, which will allow the real-time provisioning element. At the moment, Fast Track partners submit service provisioning requests, but these are then dealt with in batches by Global Crossing, which has to activate the services," notes Chappell, who will chair the SDP session at the Future of Telecom event.

"Global Crossing did a lot of streamlining of its OSS and BSS [business support systems], so its first phase was a massive reorganization of its IT systems. Now it has its IT and network teams working together on the next phase," says Chappell, who reckons that what Global Crossing is doing is "unique."

There are many wholesalers that don't want to outsource the customer relationship, she says, including AT&T, which likes to sell directly to enterprise users. Global Crossing's approach gives it a "very good niche, and it's giving its IP network some value," though she believes other carriers such as France Telecom and Deutsche Telekom AG (NYSE: DT) are working towards something similar.

— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading

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digits 12/5/2012 | 3:03:43 AM
re: Global Crossing Puts SDP Into Action The analyst quoted in the story believes this Fast Track initiative gives Global Crossing's network some tangible value as a productive and useful asset. Is that too harsh an assessment of a carrier's nuts and bolts?

And is the SDP phenomenon a fad, or something that will impact carrier services in years to come?
OldPOTS 12/5/2012 | 3:03:38 AM
re: Global Crossing Puts SDP Into Action Ray,
My experience with bleading edge technology for solutions to real business/application needs, indicates to me that this is what ethernet networks are going to have to do to survive long haul; delivering on it's promise to facilitate new services and thus customers.

Carriers need to deliver more than 'me too' services like triple play if they are to add more value than cabelcos.

I liken this to windows on a PC (SDP on network) that enables easy to use email and spread sheets. But we are not yet sure of what these effective/productive business applications will be, but we need a lot of good minds (besides carriers) to create them.

This may relegate the carriers, like Global, to become more like carriers than service providers, but they should acquire more customers (ARPU) as they add value. The monthly price is falling to a point that the productivity value is more important than the last dollar saved.

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