CarrierChoice Provides

For smaller businesses, choosing a telecommunications carrier from the vast assortment of offerings can be overwhelming. That was the thinking behind Bethlehem, Pa.-based CarrierChoice, a free, reversed-auction style Web site directed to enterprises in need of telecommunication services.

According to Greg Zulli, CEO and president of CarrierChoice, and Patrick Doherty, chief operating officer, the main priority is providing users with options.

“From our perspective, it’s all about choices and we are trying to provide the end-user the optimal choices in a vendor-neutral environment,” Doherty said.

Zulli added time efficiency is one of the top advantages of the Web site.

“Really, what it amounts to is the time efficiencies involved are incredibly the advantage of the user,” Zulli said. “What we do is basically take the process of running 20 appointments with 20 carriers and bring it home electronically on a Web site. The efficiencies are just incredible that way.”

Joe Greene, vice-president of telecommunications and Internet research at IDC Canada in Toronto, agreed that time efficiency is a benefit, but added that other qualities would have to come first.

“Definitely time efficiency is important, but references and things of that sort are probably most likely to take precedent,” Greene said.

The site, which was launched in February of this year, functions as an on-line auction where the carriers – boasting big names like AT&T, Qwest, Concentric and PSINet – bid on potential business. According to CarrierChoice, once the bidding period ends, the user evaluates the bids and can choose a carrier in a no-pressure environment. If a user accepts a carrier’s bid on-line, CarrierChoice will facilitate a contract with the carrier. Provisioning of services is then coordinated directly between the user and the carrier.

“We deal with legitimate carriers, not resellers,” Zulli said. “We feel there is a certain level of responsibility when we bring a solution or an option for a solution to our end users that the carrier is of the highest quality.”

Zulli added that quotes from service providers on the Web site are highly competitive in relation to the marketplace.

“Our quotes are probably more competitive than you would get in the regular marketplace,” Zulli said. “It’s not a premium service. The quotes that do come back are extremely low market quotes.”

However, Greene posed the inevitable question: What’s in it for the telcos?

“It was only a matter of time before a site like this was launched,” Greene said. “But I’m not sure what the telcos are getting out of this deal. It’s a vicious market. They must be looking to generate leads to eventually turn into a sale and are prepared to lower prices. I just don’t know what they’re getting out of it.”

“Carriers know we are a low-cost alternate sales channel,” Zulli explained. “There is no cost for them. We build the infrastructure. The only time there is a cost is if something is sold on their behalf. So for them, they have the ability to become very aggressive.”

Doherty added, “(Carriers) view us as a dynamic electronic sales channel that is very low-cost for them. It broadens their sales reach and brings them highly qualified opportunities to compete for.”

Though the Web site is U.S.-based, both Zulli and Doherty foresee developing a Canadian-specific site, tailored to the Canadian marketplace.

“We really have an international market we are directing now,” Zulli said. “As we broaden out, we would like to have a Canadian marketplace. Right now, we are a great tool for customers going northbound into Canada, and for Canadian customers going southbound into the U.S. with networks on both sides of the border. We can provision, price and give quotes to Canadian customers. We are relevant to the (Canadian) marketplace, with no doubt.”

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