FierceTelecom Leaders: Roland Thornton, EVP Wholesale Markets, Qwest - Part 2

FierceTelecom: Traditionally, the dominant form of wireless backhaul has been TDM-based T1. Is that still the dominant form of backhaul you're selling or are you seeing demand for Ethernet/IP services?
Thornton: Generally speaking, it is Ethernet. The scalability of Ethernet is attractive especially when you have a fiber infrastructure. What's really interesting about Ethernet is what we are selling is a finished product in the wholesale space. Our wireless service provider customers can get a complete solution that we can provide to them and it allows them to move up rapidly as their demand increases all the way up to 1 Gbps.

FierceTelecom: Outside of wireless backhaul, are you seeing increasing demand for IP-based data services from traditional competitive providers as well?
Thornton: I see a general trend toward the data/IP solutions over the voice solutions for most segments of the wholesale space whether its resellers, CLECs or cable MSO accounts. They all seem, along with the rest of the industry migrating to IP solutions. Clearly, it makes sense because it's a more cost-effective way to operate, it provides a greater degree of flexibility for the both the customers and the suppliers. I don't see any reason why that trend won't continue. If each of these segments is to remain competitive, they have to continue to embrace what this new technology provides.

FierceTelecom: You talk a lot about customer service. Why is it so important to wholesale customers, and how does Qwest Wholesale continue to improve its customer experience?
Thornton: Qwest has been pretty open about our desire to perfect customer experience. That is a corporate initiative that transcends all of our units whether it's wholesale, mass markets, or small business, etc. We all have initiatives designed around our customer segments to perfect the customer experience. Clearly, wholesale has a different set of measurements to perfect the customer experience because the customers have different needs and serve different end-users. Nonetheless, we try to make our self-service tools better and we continue to look design our portal around customers so they can enter and have access to the important information in our systems with little or no human interaction. We think that's what they like so we try to provide that type of opportunity for them.

Let me also mention that the self-service tools are more economical for our customers and they are also faster. That cycle time is a huge advantage for our customers. It is one thing to just design and enhance your systems to have an improved process, but we found that you have to look at structure as well. To do that we have been migrating to a new wholesale model that is more nimble and allows decision making to occur faster. It doesn't mean we'll always say yes to a deal, but it means we'll get to a yes or no much faster.

FierceTelecom: Do you see more automation and on-demand capabilities coming into the order process?
Thornton: Yes, we're doing that on a product-specific basis. There are some products that don't lend themselves to any further automation, but where there's high growth on the data side it's very important to be able to provide quotes quickly and accurately. The upside is significant because that's where the growth is in the industry-- it's in our best interest to try to automate and enhance those customer interfaces.

Click here to go back to Part I of the interview