C1 Communications going west

The Toronto telecom market is livening up, according to one analyst, and new Maritimes-based C1 Communications Inc. hopes to contribute to the more energetic atmosphere.

Last April, Shaw Communications bought Fundy Communication Inc.’s cable’s assets. When Shaw bought out the company, Fundy kept the telecom side and became C1, according to Tony Cassetta, C1’s president and chief operating officer.

“Phase one of our program has us covering from Halifax right through to Windsor as our primary markets,” Cassetta said.

But the plans don’t stop there.

“Eventually we’re going to become a national company. That’s kind of our current plan. It’s now just a question of time.”

For now the company is hitting Toronto, where C1 will begin offering services in November, and where the markets are different than the ones C1 is used to out east.

But that should have no bearing on the telco’s success, Mark Quigley, analyst with the Yankee Group in Canada said.

“The market (in Toronto) is much more competitive, and now that local competition has really opened up, there are more and more players entering the arena,” he said. “The big advantage, of course, that C1 are able to bring to the table is this experience that they’ve learned competing in the incumbent telcos in New Brunswick.”

C1 plans to enter the market with a variety of services, including voice, data and Internet offerings. The company already has a fibre-optic network running through parts of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.

“In Halifax we have a local switching system there, and we built the infrastructure in Maritime Canada so we have fibre optic services,” Cassetta said. “We have co-locations done with the telephone companies, we have ATM gear, and we will be building out services in the Grater Toronto Area. But we’re focused much more on a packet-switched alternative way of serving our customer. For instance, in our offices here in Mississauga, we’re installing an IP-PBX.”

In Toronto, the company is reselling services from other carriers until facilities in the city are completed, and another building is being planned in Montreal, Cassetta said.

C1’s backbone services will be offered over an all-digital network which the company will staff around the clock — 24 hours a day, seven days a week — in order to provide real-time alarm, performance and status monitoring for the entire network, according to the company’s Web site.

C1 will not be offering traditional service bundles. Cassetta explained that is simply not the C1 way.

“Our name means customized one to one business solutions…that’s what C1 stands for,” he said. “So, when we look at bundles, when we look at going in to a customer, we don’t so much look at a bundle as much as we look at customizing our service offerings around the business. Bundles are not, in our mind, an appropriate way to offer our customers a solutions-driven alternative to their business needs.”

A recently inked deal with Cisco Systems is another way

Cassetta said C1 will make its mark. The deal allows C1 to start the implementation of DSL technology in eastern Canada, according to Cassetta. “And we will be doing the same in the Toronto area in the first half of next year, and rolling out on a national basis shortly thereafter,” he said.

Cassetta thinks the fact that C1 is offering a lot of Web-based services will help set it apart from the competition.

“When you look at Web-based (services) they’re much more flexible and actually cost less money to provide,” he explained. “So there’s a huge economic shift that’s going to happen here.”

But, according to the Yankee Group’s Quigley, it’s the company’s experience that will bring it success. Especially in a market that’s “a little more fertile”.

“The big advantage, of course, that C1 are able to bring to the table is this experience that they’ve learned competing against the incumbent telcos in New Brunswick,” Quigley said. “They have some solid marketing experience, and some solid sales experience.”

And, Quigley said, the Toronto market is primed for competition

“It’s going to be interesting to see what happens at the end of all this. There seems to be more and more smaller players that are cropping up, some of which have very little background in the business, and others which do such as C1,” Quigley said. “I’d be very interested to see the competitive response the Bell Canadas of the world have to these kinds of offerings, and I think it promises to be a very exciting time for everyone.”