MetTel, a competitive business service provider, is giving its customer base a way to kick the tires on new products by launching its Customer Innovation Labs, a new research and development organization.
The Customer Innovation Labs has facilities in New York City; Holmdel, New Jersey; and Salt Lake City, Utah.
At each of the MetTel labs locations, the service provider has teams of software developers, network architects and digital transformation specialists on hand to address business growth market segments. Specialties include everything from analytics, API integration, cloud computing, internet of things, mobility, network function virtualization, cybersecurity, and software-defined networking and unique client solution development.
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MetTel Labs is also developing vertical industry solutions and services. Perhaps not surprisingly, the service provider is focusing its initial attention on fast-growing industry segments such as banking, retail, healthcare and government. In particular, the lab is working on new technologies for telehealth and remote healthcare, network management platforms for the public sector, retail analytics for wireless and third-party public databases, and leveraging Watson Analytics for unified communications.
Ed Fox, VP of network services at MetTel, has been named to lead the division along with James Salame, executive director of development and technology, who is tasked with driving the technology platform development. Sean Sullivan, vice president of product management and regulatory affairs, and Gary Gluzman, director of product management, will collaborate with customers and the lab team to commercialize the most promising technologies and methods to accelerate product and service development.
Already, the lab is helping its customers solve real-world problems. In one case, the service provider was able to resolve calling issues for one of its large healthcare clients. This client purchases a lot of private practices and when they buy them MetTel would provide hosted PBX and WAN services back to the headquarters, but the practices were continually not getting calls.
“The practices were losing calls because the Mothership dictated what they were going to do and how they were going to do it,” Fox said in an interview with FierceTelecom. “We brought it to the lab and showed the end users that they are not losing calls because they are not answering them or they are not properly staffed.”
After conducting an analysis with third-party partners, MetTel was able to provide statistics that showed 25% of the calls were not being answered because they were left in queue for 25 minutes, for example.
Since its initial inception, MetTel’s R&D organization has evolved from groups of researchers and developers working to help solve specific customer problems or extend MetTel capabilities at a client’s request.
One of the first solutions coming out of the MetTel Innovations Lab is an Emergency Communications Kit, which it said emerged from conversations it had with its MetTel clients and business partners around any number of unexpected issues or incidents that can arise from natural disasters. Some of the issues the Emergency Communications Kit will address are sales spikes, mergers and acquisitions as well as other unforeseen incidents that can disrupt the communications network and affect a branch location or even the entire business.
Because it was designed for branch or local office deployment, the Emergency Communications Kit is ideal for banks, healthcare chains and retailers. As an instant branch recovery solution, the SD-WAN-based service offers a series of voice services, wireless adapters, AT&T and/or Verizon mobile service, and custom configuration and installation.
MetTel has continued to see strong demand for SD-WAN with customer engagements tripling in 2016.
“We’re happy to be an early SD-WAN player, but the lab is tasked with what’s next and what lies on top of this,” Fox said. “We chose VeloCloud early on in the game and they have become the de facto standard winner for all service providers to create value around our solution.”
While Fox is a believer in SD-WAN, he’s realistic that large customers aren’t going to abandon their existing MPLS networks.
“We deployed SD-WAN and worked with VeloCloud to make sure we can put their virtualized gateways in our network,” Fox said. “We put them on our MPLS network so we can share MPLS broadband with SD-WAN, knowing full well that a customer would not move 1,000 locations to SD-WAN over one weekend and get rid of MPLS.”
Additionally, the company has seen 70% further growth in the first two months of 2017 compared to the same time period last year.