Ciena’s 18-wheeler promotion/training truck rolled into Denver yesterday, and Ciena and Comcast executives touted their joint efforts to deploy Metro Ethernet business services.

Ciena’s Carrier Ethernet Service Delivery (CESD) platforms are being deployed by Comcast as customer premise equipment for business services and wireless backhaul. (For more, see Comcast Ramps Metro E with Cisco, Ciena).

Comcast crossed the $1 billion mark for business services revenue in 2010, mostly from small businesses with fewer than 20 employees. In May, it announced it was moving up-market to provide Metro E services for mid-size businesses, typically those with between 20 and 500 employees. The MSO now offers Metro E in more than 20 major U.S. markets, and that number is growing. (See New Comcast Sales Team Targets Mid-Size Business Customers With Metro E).

"The beauty is that the fiber footprint Comcast has in its regions today to support the cable network is broad-reaching within the footprint in a way that people don’t realize," says Martha Tate, Comcast’s West Division vice president/Enterprise Sales. "It gives us a great fiber backbone to build laterals off of into business buildings."

And as far as wireless backhaul goes, Tate adds, "Comcast is already working with several of the major (wireless) carriers. We believe backhaul is another complementary business that can further leverage our network. It is another potential billion-dollar opportunity for us."

Metro E Training

The Ciena truck frequently is used to help train newly hired Comcast business services sales people, says Cary Sprenger, channel field manager/West at Ciena. Comcast is deploying Ciena’s LE-311v, which is part of a family of service delivery and aggregation platforms.

According to Sprenger, the truck is helpful to show that the Comcast business class network is extremely flat, requiring only three boxes necessary for a Metro E deployment: the LE-311v in a telco closet at the customer’s premise, a switch from a third-party vendor like Cisco or Juniper and another LE-311v at the operator’s location. "People seem to open up about their network needs and have a larger list of questions when they understand the types of network issues the Comcast/Ciena partnership is solving (in the truck)," he adds.

The Comcast/Ciena relationship is due in part to the breakup of Nortel. In November 2009, Ciena acquired Nortel’s Metro Ethernet Network (MEN) business unit (See Ciena Grabs Large Chunk of Nortel), and Comcast was an existing Nortel customer. Comcast has joined Ciena’s BizConnect global partner program as a designated managed service provider partner, giving it access to customized marketing programs and Carrier Ethernet training and certifications as well as technical and sales support.

At a panel session at The Cable Show in June, executives stressed the importance of salespeople understanding the business verticals to which they’re selling. (For more, see Why Cox Is a Business-Services Frontrunner).

Comcast’s Tate says, "We’ve hired tenured sales folks that are working with the customer on their business problems versus just selling." Comcast is not hiring junior sales reps for its mid-size business initiative, she explains, because it takes an average of nine months to bring them up to speed.

Although verticals like healthcare and finance are the usual suspects for mid-size business services, Comcast has found that applications are driving bandwidth needs horizontally across the segment. Examples include car dealerships with multiple locations that need to communicate about inventory or law firms with specialized IT needs.

Comcast’s nationwide IP network features more than 147,000 route miles of fiber optic cable, offering mid-sized businesses with multiple sites and high-bandwidth needs Ethernet Private Line, Ethernet Virtual Private Line, Ethernet Network and Ethernet Dedicated Internet Access services. The services range from 1 Mbps to 10 Gbps, and they come with three different classes of service.

-Linda Hardesty

The Daily

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