Unified communication

ANPI Takes Unified Comms to the Masses

ORLANDO, Fla. -- COMPTEL Plus Fall 2013 -- Rural US service providers buffeted by changes in federal subsidies are rolling up their sleeves and knuckling down to the job of finding incremental revenues to replace their dwindling legacy voice income and capitalize on their investment to date in broadband, according to one company tightly engaged in this market. (See ANPI Launches Wholesale Hosted UC Offer.)

Associated Network Partners Inc. (ANPI) began its life in 1996 as, basically, a purchasing co-operative for rural telcos looking to pool their economic power, but has evolved into a national IP backbone for more than 100 rural telcos nationwide. And now it's offering a hosted services package that gives its rural telco members everything they need to offer unified communications (UC) services, including not just the service features but also marketing and sales collateral and training, and ongoing tech support.

The hosted UC services are delivered via ANPI's national private IP network, and can serve as a launch pad for rural telcos looking to get into cloud services, says David Byrd, chief marketing officer for ANPI, which is seeing major demand from its customers for these kinds of advanced services.

"The immediate reaction to the FCC's reform of Universal Service Funding was that the sky was falling," Byrd tells Light Reading. "But since then, a number of our companies have realized that they have the infrastructure in place and they have customers with long-time loyalties to them. If they are able to bring new product offerings to that customer base, they can find new incremental revenues."

The key is moving to IP and helping their customers to do the same, says Byrd. One major advantage of such a move is that it enables rural telcos to sell services outside their existing network footprint, expanding the potential customer base. This is a crucial matter for rural telcos whose local service footprint abuts areas served by telecom giants, whether those areas are suburban, exurban, or rural.

Traditionally, serving these extended areas requires a rural telco to register as a CLEC, in order to get access to things such as phone numbers, but in the IP world, these new advanced services can be delivered over-the-top, using ANPI's IP infrastructure, in a way that is more cost-effective for the rural telco, Byrd says.

"This eliminates a major regulatory hassle for them, and lets them get into new markets with an expanded footprint and incremental revenue," Byrd says. "That is critical to [a service provider] with a small population in their original footprint."

ANPI plans to add more cloud offerings going forward, having started with UC because of its familiarity with communications services. Future efforts could include partners with additional expertise, Byrd says.

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

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