Buyer beware, be educated, say analysts

Changes and upheavals in the Canadian telecommunications industry make it necessary for businesses to clearly understand what they are buying, what vendors are involved, and how the services might change, analysts said at The Canadian Telecom Breakfast held last month in Toronto.

Joe Greene, director of telecommunications and Internet research with IDC Canada Ltd. in Toronto, said the market is moving increasingly towards bundled voice and data packages.

“Make sure the bundle meets your requirements,” Greene advised. “Find out who the service providers are.”

Greene said businesses need to be aware that bundles may include unexpected partnerships. Telcos, fibre owners, data companies and ISPs will form alliances and service packages, he said.

As an example, Greene pointed to the recent deal between Bell Canada and Manitoba Telecom Services Inc. to form a company to move into B.C. and Alberta, which will in turn force recently formed BCTel.Telus to look east, he said.

When shopping for voice and data providers, Greene said price is not the only consideration.

“Reliability is the most important factor in choosing a service provider…What are the firm’s service capabilities today and tomorrow? Who are their partners?”

In spite of Greene’s advice, Dan McLean, research manager of network support and integration services with IDC Canada, said his recent study on network convergence shows that the main factor driving voice/data convergence is low cost, even though large companies with low long-distance rates might not save any money through convergence.

The IDC survey of 350 Canadian respondents from all sizes of companies covered various issues regarding network convergence.

For those considering voice/data convergence, McLean said 83 per cent of respondents preferred voice over a data network, as opposed to data over a voice network.

“[IDC Canada] believes voice over data is the way to go,” McLean said.

That being said, McLean noted that education on what convergence means and how to go about it is sorely lacking. He said many survey respondents thought increasing bandwidth on their networks, putting in ISDN or frame relay, or even just having an intranet/extranet meant they had a converged network.

“Bell was most named as who users will look to for education on convergence,” McLean said. He added that Bell’s competitors need to take note of that if they want to have their own effective customer education.