Building Integra's brand equity, teams at top of the list for Tate

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Martha Tate, Integra

Tate (Image source: Integra)

with Martha Tate, Vice President of Wholesale, Integra

Martha Tate, vice president of Wholesale for Integra, may still be relatively new to her position, but she comes with plenty of experience to run the wholesale division. In her new role, Tate is helping the newly rebranded Integra focus on not only classic PTTs (postal, telephone and telegraph government agencies outside the United States) and ILECs (incumbent local exchange carriers), but also on a host of data center, cloud and content providers that need higher-speed connectivity. Sean Buckley, Senior Editor of FierceTelecom, spoke with Tate about the trends she's seeing in the wholesale space.

FierceTelecom: Martha, you were recently appointed as the VP of wholesale at Integra. Can you talk about the first few months on the job?

Martha Tate: It is the classic first 90 days of any new mission where you really need to get in and assess the people, the product, network, and customers, prospects, the right fit, and the ability to succeed. Through that assessment, I was very pleased to come to the conclusion we had right people and we had right product set. Joe Harding, Integra's senior vice president, Marketing has been working with our engineering and operations group over the previous year to get the product portfolio ramped up so we could hit the ground running on top of the right network architecture to support a wholesale practice. We had long-standing relationships with what you would call the classic carriers, including the ILECs, next-gen carriers and CLECs. If anything, the mission was to broaden the scope into a robust wholesale practice that included not only the carriers, but also content providers, data centers, resellers, cloud services companies, and Internet commerce providers. Then we had to build the staffing plan to address those additional segments within the wholesale space.

FierceTelecom: You mentioned data-driven content providers. Would you say that is an emerging opportunity?

Martha Tate: It is content, data center and cloud services, including the Internet commerce-type companies that either fit into cloud services or content. Those are definitely emerging segments for Integra evidenced by sales to that segment over the last few months.

FierceTelecom: There's also a lot of talk about Fiber to the Tower. What is your FTTT strategy?

Martha Tate: I don't think anybody can predict very accurately, including the wireless carriers themselves, what their actual bandwidth demands are. Four years ago, buying 50 Meg to a tower was a big sale. The good news was they were updating it and continuing to upgrade it. Demand has exploded, as overused as that word is. What we're seeing at Integra that presents a real opportunity for us is based on our footprint--we have dense fiber assets that are able to get out to the towers and provide that upgrade path as they move from sub-100 Meg requirements to 1 Gig, 10 Gig, and 100 Gig. Now, we're even seeing moves towards dark fiber because it's the only way the wireless providers are able to properly keep up with that demand. As that goes from concept to reality, particularly in the metro areas, we're able to play in that space with both lit services as well as dark fiber. We're seeing that go from concept to actual demand.

FierceTelecom: Dark fiber was one of the latest products Integra Wholesale released. Are you seeing more interest from wireless operators for dark fiber?

Martha Tate: Well, you'd think it would be too early because it has only been six months since we launched the product, but it's not. There's a budget requirement that takes place anytime a customer is looking at dark fiber, because it's the total solution cost. It's not only the dark fiber, but also the equipment and the maintenance of that equipment as well as being able to upgrade that as you do the end-of-life on the equipment in five to seven years on the dark fiber.

The fiber is the easiest component. With the whole Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) model we're seeing content, cloud services, wireless, ILECs, and I would imagine fairly shortly PTTs as their demand grows domestically, that there's a resurgence in our space around dark fiber and the budgets make that a reality.

FierceTelecom: As you pointed out, there has been a rise in international PTTs such as China Telecom extending services into the United States. Do you see that as a growing opportunity for the wholesale division?

Martha Tate: As a sector we are, and at Integra Wholesale we are. One of the opportunities when I came on board was to look at our operating model and how we were staffed to support and generate demand. Going into this year, we created a separate ILEC and PTT vertical that is solely focused in this space. Where you're focused is generally where you also see success. We have individuals that have backgrounds and are well versed in working with the ILECs for their backbone as well as end-customer requirements and doing the same thing with the PTTs such as BT (NYSE: BT), China Telecom (NYSE: CHA), and France Telecom (FTE.TI).

FierceTelecom: How important is Integra's new branding and how does that help your group build a profile to meet your goals?

Martha Tate: It is very important to us as we either refresh awareness or build awareness around our capabilities today versus the capabilities were evident three to five years ago. Our new tagline, 'Technology you trust and people you know,' is very relevant to wholesale. It is relevant to all of the organization, but plays particularly well in the wholesale space.

For example, our recent announcement to deploy Ciena (Nasdaq: CIEN) 6500s that will allow us to provide up to 100G services--that's evidence of technology you trust. In parallel with that, we [believe] having right network is having the right people. Having the right people in place that are industry veterans that understand the space and are focused not only on our sales, but our ability to maintain and grow revenue through service delivery and management of the customer experience, is something we are known for in the industry. It goes back to technology you trust and people you know.

FierceTelecom: Switching over to Ethernet, the other big trend is providing interconnection. How do you see that segment evolving?

Martha Tate: Last year the buzz in the industry was all around deploying either Network-to-Network Interconnections (NNIs) or, more importantly, External Network-to-Network Interconnections (E-NNIs) to be able to leverage each other's networks. It was one thing to say that you are going to deploy E-NNIs with a set list of customers, but it's another thing to actually do it.

One of the stats I am really proud of at Integra is we were able to turn up 62 NNIs last year with 26 of them being done in the last six months. That's going through the entire process of deployment, test, turn up and acceptance. We have documented procedures that others in the industry that are literally 10 times our size are starting to use. The old saying, 'imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,' rings true. The key is developing your NNI list with actual sales and revenue results in mind. We had tripled the revenue quarter-over-quarter off those NNI connections. In the latter half of the year, we doubled our overall sales within the wholesale channel. That's a team effort of sales, product, engineering, service delivery, and service management.