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About Our Service Providers

SmartPrice.com has a large number of carriers to provide for the needs of its customers. The following provides background about the various kinds of carriers providing service to business customers as well as some examples we have on the SmartPrice.com site.

Local Service Providers:
Most of the people in the U.S. get their local telephone service from an RBOC (Regional Bell Operating Company). These companies were created in 1984 when the Federal Government forced the break-up of AT&T. The twenty-two Bell Operating Companies that specialized in providing local service were spun off into seven RBOCs - NYNEX, Bell Atlantic, Bell South, Ameritech, Southwest Bell. US West, and Pacific Telesys. Recent Mergers and acquisitions have reduced the number of RBOCs to four: Verizon in the northeast, Bell South in the southeast, SBC in the southwest and Midwest, and Qwest in the West.

There were two large independent telephone companies (United and GTE) and many hundreds of small independent telephone companies that served all those outside of RBOC territories in 1984. While larger industry players have purchased many of these companies, they still influence the industry in several ways.

If your business is in an RBOC territory, your will have a large number of competitive choices, many different features and services, and low prices for many services. There are fewer competitive choices, a more limited selection of services, and generally higher prices in the former United and GTE service areas. Finally, the areas served by the small independent telephone companies have the fewest competitive choices, limited service and feature availability, and relatively high prices.

Competitive Local Exchange Carriers (CLECs) are newcomers to the local service market and generally provide more competitive rates than incumbent carriers. These carriers may resell RBOC service or offer service over their own facilities.

Long Distance Service Providers:
AT&T, MCI, and Sprint are the largest Inter-Exchange Carriers (IXCs) - that is the telecom industry's name for long distance carriers. There a more than a thousand other IXCs divided into three broad categories of companies as follows:

  • Facilities Based Carriers - these companies own switches and transmission facilities (usually fiber optic cables) along with the entire infrastructure to design and support networks as well as bill customers. They may lease or swap facilities with other carriers for diversity or economic reasons. AT&T, MCI, and Sprint are examples of facilities based carriers. Facilities based carriers are more likely to provide a full line of services including high-end data services such as frame relay and ATM services. Qwest, Global Crossing, and Broadwing and many other lesser-known carriers are also facilities based.
  • Switch Based Resellers - these companies resell service from other carriers but have at lease one switch that allows them to aggregate service from several wholesale carriers, do least cost routing, and provide features in addition to those offered by the wholesale carriers. They also have care groups and render bills to their customers. Access Point and Global Telecommunications are examples of switch-based resellers.
  • Switchless Resellers - these companies do not own switches or facilities. They resell the services of one or more facilities based carriers. They provide customer care and billing for their customers and may add value with specialized pricing, or aggregating a number of suppliers services into "bundles". TNCI, Capital Communications, and ECG are examples of switchless resellers.

Many telecommunications companies are combinations of the three types of carriers outlined above. They may own facilities serving some areas and resell service in other areas or they may resell advanced capabilities such as conferencing and data services.

Full Service Providers:
Many carriers, especially the larger ones, are moving toward providing a full line of telecommunication services including local, long distance, data services, and wireless. The large long distance carriers are moving to provide local service and the RBOCs are moving into the long distance markets. The primary benefits to customers are a single point of contact, a single bill, and potentially lower prices. Examples of full service providers are AT&T, Sprint, and Z-Tel.

Niche Service Providers:
There are a significant number of carriers and resellers that focus narrowly on particular markets or specific product sets. These carriers can often provide significant value in their areas of concentration and are worth considering if your business fits their niche or you need a service in which they specialize. Some common areas of focus that are of interest to business are as follows:

  • Business Carriers - some carriers focus on providing services only for businesses. Business customers are generally larger and change carriers far less often than residential customers. Additionally, business customers need a broad product set and usually add additional lines and services over time. Business customers can benefit from dealing with a business only carrier by having a telecom partner that is very knowledgeable about business applications, has many service alternatives, and generally aggressive pricing. Business carriers' customer care is usually extremely responsive in recognition of the importance of telecommunications to most businesses. Examples of business carriers are Trans-national Communications Inc. (TNCI) and W2COM.
  • Tele-conferencing and Video-conferencing services - there are a number of companies and divisions of larger companies that specialize in conferencing services. Many of these companies do not require contracts or commitments for their services and the services may be used in addition to those provided by your regular carrier. Examples of these companies are ILD and AccuLinQ conferencing services.
  • Regional Carriers - many CLECs (Competitive Local Exchange Carriers) serve limited geographical areas. Veranet, for example, serves the Eastern U.S. and Grande Communications serves Texas. Many long distance resellers serve only RBOC territories. These carriers can provide regional businesses very good values but may have to be augmented or replaced as businesses outgrow their original regions.

Agents and Master Agents: in addition to the types of carriers outlined above, agents or master agents (large agents supporting thousands of customers) may support telecom customers. Agents represent one or more carriers and add value by helping customers with buying decisions, performing design work, and doing bill audits. Agents do not generally provide customer care beyond the buying process and do not bill customers directly. SmartPrice.com is an example of a master agent.


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