Meet 2012’s competitive provider leaders

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2012 Competitive Providers

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With the Fall 2012 COMPTEL Plus show now behind us, FierceTelecom looks at emerging leaders in the competitive service provider space and the influential executives behind them.

Over the past three years, the competitive telecom has gone through continual change. A key element has been the ongoing consolidation of this market, where various players have switched ownership via high-profile, multibillion-dollar megadeals, along with a host of smaller mergers and acquisitions of regional CLECs.

In 2012, we observed this change on three fronts:

  • Continued Consolidation: With a number of mega deals already done, including Windstream's (Nasdaq: WIN) acquisition of PAETEC and Zayo's multibillion-dollar deal for AboveNet, there's another group of players that are starting to emerge and make smaller deals. First, there's Alpheus and Fibertech. Alpheus was purchased and revamped by venture capitalists, the Gores Group, in tandem with Scott Widham, who is probably best known as the CEO of the former Broadwing Communications before it was purchased by Level 3 Communications (NYSE: LVLT). Alpheus is finding an audience in the Dallas, Austin, San Antonio, and Houston (DASH) area. Fibertech, meanwhile, was sold by Nautic Partners and Ridgemont Equity Partners for $500 million to Court Square.

    Consolidation is not taking place in just NFL cities, however. Jonesboro, Ark.-based Ritter Communications, a 106-year old telco, has purchased a number of local telcos and cable operators to enhance its residential and business service reach over the past seven years. It recently purchased Millington Telephone and Millington Cable--two deals that immediately gave it instant access into the Tennessee telecom market. The additional benefit from this deal is that Ritter can now better serve a number of wholesale opportunities, while giving Millington a middle mile network.

  • Leadership Transition: Consolidation, of course, was only one part of the competitive telecom market story. Throughout 2012, there were a number of leadership transitions at a number of CLECs. One good example of this is Integra Telecom, which had what could be called a stop-and-start leadership transition. After Integra's founder and CEO Dudley Slater left the company, Tom Casey, who took over the CLEC to execute its larger business drive, abruptly left to join pigment company Tronox Inc. But in December 2011, Integra continued its larger business service market drive by naming one of Level 3 Communications' founders, Kevin O'Hara, as its CEO. No less compelling was Clint Heiden, who was named the new president of Sidera. Prior to Sidera, Heiden was the president of Intellifiber Networks--the wholesale division of Cavalier Telephone, which was purchased by PAETEC and later, Windstream.

  • Expanding service sets: As the saying goes in the telecom industry: It's the services, stupid. All of the CLECs on our list this year have been continually expanding their underlying networks and service sets, particularly IP-based Ethernet and cloud-based services. On the Ethernet side, CLECs are simultaneously building out fiber into more buildings and Ethernet over Copper (EoC) to other business sites where they can't currently prove in a case to deploy fiber. These same CLECs are also expanding their set of IP-based voice (i.e., SIP trunking, hosted PBX, and Unified Communications) and cloud services (i.e., managed hosting, data centers and managed security).

As we did in our 2011 list, we're ranking each executive according to specific criteria: those executives who have created a profitable business and can spend money; those who are setting trends and opening new markets; and those that have the technology and service vision.

Join us as we profile each executive and examine these industry trends.--Sean

P.S. Take a look at our 2011, 2010 and 2009 honorees and let us know if there are other competitive service provider executives we should consider.