CenturyLink’s recent move to offer managed Wi-Fi service is part of a broader effort by the service provider to build a foundation to not only lure small to medium businesses, but also create a foundation from which it can upsell other services.
Based on Cisco Meraki technology, Business Wi-Fi is a managed service that includes real-time monitoring and analytics to help businesses better connect with their customers.
Eric Nowak, director, product management with CenturyLink, told FierceTelecom that starting with Wi-Fi allows the customer to get comfortable with the platform and add on other capabilities like security cameras.
“They may want to start with Wi-Fi now, but they want to over time add some of those other components,” Nowak said. “What we believe is where they start if they want to add video cameras or additional switches and they’ll already know the interface.”
Appealing to SMBs
CenturyLink’s managed Wi-Fi service is all about extending the same services it offers to large businesses to resource-constrained SMBs.
Taking a solution-based approach, CenturyLink offers not only necessary network transport but also Cisco Meraki access points and software licenses (eight access points per location for up to five locations), access to Meraki’s cloud-based dashboard and 24/7 operational support.
“This takes what we have been doing with the managed Meraki service and makes it more appealing down market with better pricing and installation model,” said Nowak. “We’re trying to give SMBs the maximum value at the price point.”
Having CenturyLink provide the managed Wi-Fi offering means SMBs could offer network connectivity and push promotions to their customers.
“What we hear the most is that SMBs want to create a Wi-Fi network inside their organization, whether that’s a retailer inside their store or a doctor’s office providing connectivity for patients,” Nowak said.
Wi-Fi is just one of several service sets CenturyLink is using to attract SMBs.
CenturyLink launched CenturyLink Business VoIP for small business customers, a plug-and-play service that delivers premium phone features for a flat monthly service rate. In June, CenturyLink introduced CenturyLink Managed Enterprise with Cisco Meraki.
The service provider will further enhance its ability to serve SMBs when it completes its acquisition of Level 3 in October. Upon completion, the service provider will have a combined fiber network that will reach more places, enabling the telco to compete against cable in the SMB segment.
Being able to offer higher speeds and other services like cloud over its existing HFC and fiber networks has allowed cable to effectively chip away at the SMB customers that once only CenturyLink and other incumbents served.
Focus on analytics
Providing network connectivity is just one element that the managed Wi-Fi solution can provide for SMBs.
These customers can also get analytics from the Meraki-based platform on how the Wi-Fi service is being used by employees and customers.
Through Meraki’s dashboard, business customers can not only view their networks but also prioritize and throttle priority and nonpriority applications. Additionally, SMB can use client- and location-based analytics to better serve connecting clients.
“Some customers maybe want to analyze the heat mapping in their retail store or better understand coverage in a location to better provide uninterrupted access,” Nowak said. “Yes, this is about Wi-Fi, but it’s also about how they’re creating this next-generation of experiences a building block to get to that more interactive model.”