Integra Positions to Catch Bigger Fish

Well-traveled industry executive Robert Guth is leaving his impression on another carrier. After five months as the interim president and CEO of Integra, Guth, a former key player in business services for Level 3, TelCove and AT&T, has led the Western US carrier to create two new business aimed at improving Integra's ability to serve both very large and mid-market customers.

Though Integra, based in Vancouver, Wash., has been working in recent years to broaden its horizons from the small-business CLEC it once was, company officials tell Light Reading that the interim boss had "tremendous influence" on the biggest step yet to move beyond that legacy. Integra said this week it is realigning around two business units: Electric Lightwave and Integra Business. The former will address the unique needs of large enterprises, data centers, government and the wholesale market, likely bringing Integra into more competitive clashes with Guth's onetime employers. The latter unit will take on the concerns of mid-market businesses -- a segment that everyone, from the national telcos to regional CLECs to cable TV companies, is keen to capture. (See Integra Creates New Business Units.)

Fifteen-year Integra veteran Dan Stoll has been named president of the Electric Lightwave unit, which itself is named for the carrier Integra acquired in 2006. Though not Integra's original bread and butter, the large customer segment Electric Lightwave is tackling now represents 40% of Integra's business. Still, the carrier is determined to grow its share, even as larger national carriers intensify their own pursuit of data center connectivity clients and other opportunities.

"From a product perspective, Electric Lightwave customers are data-centric and big pipe-oriented," Stoll says. "They need an additional product set that includes security, certifications and other products."

But what will really set Integra apart in that end of the market is its array of unique fiber routes and a local service model that makes it easier to do business with, says Joe Harding, chief marketing officer at Integra. "The large customers and the mid-market customers have different needs, and should be approached differently," says Harding. "Experience has become the sell."

However, sheer capacity certainly helps, and Integra has upgraded several routes to 100G, and also offers dedicated wavelength services between several metros in the Western US. Harding also promised the organizational shift would result in "more aggressive investment in Integra's fiber network assets." (See Integra Unveils Dedicated 100G Connections and Ciena Upgrades Integra Route with 100G.)

You can read a lot more about fiber carriers like Integra in our dedicated optical content channel here on Light Reading.

Integra has yet to name a leader for the Integra Business unit. Harding adds that while some staff for the new units is being drawn from the company's current talent pool, "We are in the process of bringing on incremental talent with enterprise and mid-market applications expertise, particularly to support the sales and service management functions of the organizations."

Integra is also still looking for a permanent CEO, but it sounds like Guth has been doing more than just keeping the seat warm since he took over following the departure of Kevin O'Hara last September. Harding, who like Guth and former Integra CEO O'Hara, worked at Level 3 Communications Inc. (NYSE: LVLT) for several years, says, "Bob has given us a firm hand on the wheel." (See Guth Replaces O'Hara As Integra CEO.)

— Dan O'Shea, Managing Editor, Light Reading

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