Frontier is making a big bet on cloud-based VoIP services, targeting its AnyWare service to the largely ignored small to medium business (SMB) space with a suite of what it calls solutions that fit specific market segment needs.
While Frontier’s AnyWare is applicable to any size business, SMBs are the initial focus. The service provider plans to extend the service to other segments later this year.
Ken Arndt, EVP of commercial for Frontier, told FierceTelecom the AnyWare expansion is focused on serving small to medium sized customers, which had been traditionally ignored by larger carriers.
“When we did research, some of the most underserved customer segments were the small business segments, and we thought those were the greatest opportunity for growth,” Arndt said. “We’re starting to put together suites of products, and Frontier AnyWare is the linchpin for that because it’s a unified communications platform that allows us to integrate with web-based services, mobile apps and other types of UC services.”
The service provider recently announced that its AnyWare platform is now available in all 50 states. Frontier’s AnyWare provides virtual communications in a cloud-based, VoIP solution for businesses.
Leveraging Mitel’s platform, AnyWare offers a converged voice and data communication solution. This solution ties in well with the trend that companies of all sizes are increasingly relying on cloud-based connectivity solutions for core business functions.
Frontier was also named Mitel’s Top U.S. Service Provider for 2016 in recognition of cloud growth.
“We’re their largest partner in the world by volume because we have grown that CPE business,” Arndt said. “We’re using their software as well to power the Frontier AnyWare cloud services, so it’s a continuation of a relationship that has benefited both parties very well.”
In addition to leveraging the Mitel CPE platforms and channel, the service provider has also expanded its partnership with Vivial, a marketing technology company that offers a full range of customer engagement tools, to resell its Marketing Platform in many of Frontier's markets throughout the country.
Partnering with Vivial means that Frontier can enable agents and value-added resellers (VARs) to sell to SMBs via Frontier.
“The idea is we offer third-party agents opportunities to sell into this customer segment where they really have not done a lot of business with Frontier in the past,” Arndt said.
Diverse network options
In order to deliver the cloud-based service or expand the penetration of Ethernet services, Frontier can draw on its growing fiber network.
Besides the metro and long-haul miles, Frontier also has a sizable on-net fiber footprint, a factor it enhanced through its acquisition of Verizon’s properties in California, Texas and Florida (which it refers to as its CTF markets). This acquisition enabled the provider to enhance its profile with a spot on Vertical Systems Group’s new on-net fiber Leaderboard.
Frontier, which took the 11th spot on the Leaderboard, is part of a group of retail and wholesale fiber providers that have 10,000 or more on-net fiber-lit commercial buildings in the U.S.
Having a large amount of on-net fiber buildings means Frontier will be able to more effectively respond to the higher speed requirements of SMB customers and larger business customers in these buildings.
Arndt said that its fiber network is in close proximity to all of the major U.S. cities.
“Our network is within two hours of every NFL city in the United States,” Arndt said. “Because our network is so close to all of these metros, we can take to the edge of network and from a cloud perspective offer not only these unique product offerings, but also a high level of redundancy and responsiveness.”
Unlike other over-the-top VoIP providers like 8x8 and Vonage, Arndt claims that offering these services over its own network allows the telco to better control the customer experience and maintain uptime.
“If you look at business VoIP or UCaaS, you’ll see people out there like Vonage and 8x8,” Arndt said. “We think that owning the network and some of the other features we’re adding and integrating, we’re offering something unique in this business segment.”
And for customers that aren’t on Frontier’s network, the service provider will allow them to use another broadband provider of their choice.
“The great thing about AnyWare is it is 'bring your own bandwidth,'” Arndt said. “We want to control and that’s the value of having our network from an availability perspective.”
Along with letting customers procure their own bandwidth, Frontier will leverage connectivity from one of its seven network-to-network interconnection (NNI) partners nationwide.
These interconnection agreements enable Frontier to address not only small businesses, but also remote offices of its larger multi-site customers that want a single provider for their cloud service.
“We believe we can provide either a complete turnkey solution, or, if we’re going through a third party or reseller who may have other agreements with a carrier in that market, they can use that component,” Arndt said. “We can bundle this from a number of different layers where we are just the unified communications layer plus the content management component and provide the egress and bandwidth side of it.”
Segment, not technology focus
Regardless of what service it offers, Frontier set its focus on providing solutions that can accommodate the needs of specific business and market segments.
Some of these segments could include, but are not limited to, schools, hospitals and banks. Frontier is developing solution sets, which could include a mix of UCaaS, internet access and even SD-WAN services.
“We’re focusing on solutions by market segment versus just products,” Arndt said. “People get too confused with cloud, UCaaS or SD-WAN, so we’re focusing on coming out with solutions by segment—schools, hospitals, banks and small businesses—and creating solutions around those segments rather than just a product.”
Because these segments all have unique needs, Frontier has created a process to work with channel partners to procure services and necessary CPE.
While he could not reveal how many cloud seats Frontier has sold, Arndt said that this process is all about ensuring a successful cloud transition.
“We spent a lot of time ensuring we have the process to ensure the customer has the best path to the cloud possible,” Arndt said. “I have heard horror stories about others entering this space so we wanted to ensure we had the process down.”