Now that Cox’s business unit has passed the $1 billion revenue mark, it has set its sights on the second billion. (For more, see Cox Business Generates $1 Billion in Annual Sales). Phil Meeks, Cox Business senior vice president, was reaching out last week at the Cable Show with some talking points.

"We’re off to a great start in 2011," said Meeks. "We’re still growing at mid-teen percent year-over-year. At the current trajectory, we’ll become a $2 billion line of business in six years."

Much of the low-hanging fruit has come from small businesses with fewer than 20 employees. "That’s our sweet spot with 85 percent of customers and 65 percent of revenue," Meeks explained. Cox projects that small business will bring in $550 million of the next billion it seeks.

According to Meeks, Cox has been able to snag small businesses away from ILECs off their games. "We’ve been able to repurpose a lot of the residential infrastructure to serve businesses,” he said. “ILECs haven’t demonstrated the ability to share network and resources between their commercial and residential sides."

Meeks also identified some new money-making opportunities. "Our wholesale business, where we provide services to other communication service providers, grew 29 percent year-over-year last year," he said. "A big driver is wireless backhaul."

And verticals are an often-mentioned opportunity for service providers, including the usual suspects: schools, hospitals and government offices. Case in point: Cablevision’s Optimum Lightpath has driven revenue by servicing verticals. (For more, see Optimum Lights Verticals). And Comcast, which also crossed the $1 billion revenue mark for business services in 2010, has built a sales team to target mid-sized businesses with Metro E. (For more, see New Comcast Sales Team Targets Mid-Size Business Customers With Metro E). Meeks noted business and academic campuses are desirable because they’re geographically densely concentrated, but they don’t require a nationwide network.

Cox Business is deploying a common Metro E platform and plans to have it launched in all its markets by 1Q12. And there’s a nice synchronicity between Metro E and cell backhaul. "A lot of those wireless towers are on top of buildings that have potential customers," said Meeks. "When we do a fiber-to-the-tower build, we’re mindful of the adjacent commercial opportunities as well."

At a Cable Show panel session "What Customers Want: Tailoring Services to Fit Unique Business Needs," participants discussed the importance of sales people understanding the needs of different verticals. "We can’t fool ourselves on the importance of having the skill-set in place to sell to a particular vertical; speaking their language," said Craig Collins, senior vice president/Business Services Sales and Marketing at Time Warner Cable.

Finally, for Cox Business, the company plans to piggyback on Cox’s commercial wireless offering. Cox recently announced it will not build its own wireless network, but instead will lease Sprint’s network. (For more, see Cox Pulls the Plug on Wireless Builds). Cox Communications plans to offer wireless in 50 percent of its residential markets by the end of 2011. "After residential, we plan to launch in commercial," said Meeks. "Most small businesses are fairly dissatisfied with their current wireless provider because they haven’t built pricing packages that are tailored. We plan to build pricing-specific packages."

John Hanson, a partner with Accenture and moderator of the "What Customers Want" panel, summed it up: "Business services is the key growth area for cable, but the secret’s out. There are plenty of competitors, with new insurgents coming from everywhere."

-Linda Hardesty

The Daily

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