NBTel Networks offers management services

Cisco Systems Canada Co.’s customers nation-wide will now be able to receive network management services through newly formed NBTel Networks, a division of NBTel.

But while NBTel has been a recognizable presence in eastern Canada, the decision to go national may be slightly premature, according to a Canadian analyst.

“I think that NBTel is one of those companies that has designs on becoming a national service provider but I don’t think that they’re there yet,” Dan McLean, an analyst with IDC Canada Ltd. in Toronto, said. “They’re working towards that, but they’re not there.”

But NBTel and Cisco seem confident they can provide customers with what they want, no matter where they are in the country.

The two companies have signed an agreement to provide around the clock services including the management of hubs, routers and switches, and coordination with maintenance providers and carriers. Other services, such as network audits, will also be available to customers. And, according to the companies, NBTel Networks will become a Cisco Network Operations Centre.

Approximately one year ago, NBtel asked Cisco to take a look at its network operations centre in St. John’s to do, in effect, an audit of the company’s skills and capabilities, according to Terry Conrod, the director of data networks, NBTel, a subsidiary of Aliant Inc.

Cisco then made a series of recommendations, and over the past 12 months, NBTel has been busy implementing the changes based on the Cisco recommendations. Now NBTel Networks is ready to deliver.

The whole process is a group effort, according to Bob

Singleton, the director of systems engineering at Cisco Canada.

“What we’ll do is work with a customer on building a network for them and then in conjunction with NBTel, design an end-to-end solution that could encompass all of those things or portions of them, depending on what the customer wants,” Singleton explained.

The services will be tailored for each individual business’ needs Conrod said.

“We see a series of customized solutions with service level agreements that are designed to meet that individual customers’ needs,” he explained, adding that they will be looking at “individual situations and responding with situation-specific packaging and pricing.”

There seems to be a need for these services from all companies, not just large corporations, Singleton said. He believes the Internet is playing a big part in the need for new services, because as its “technology flows more into the small and medium business area, companies that maybe don’t have their own internal expertise, or want to get to market faster with a solution…(want to) have the back-end support in place as well,” he said.

The Internet is creating a lot of opportunities for customers, said Conrod, and NBTel sees a lot of customers trying to get in on that market. He believes that the services that NBTel Networks will be offering will allow customers to enter the market, without having to spend more money on internal staff.

IDC’s McLean said NBTel’s history in the market is a bonus for customers.

“I think from a Cisco customer’s perspective, they’re getting access to a services company that has a good reputation, that has a lot of certified strength from the perspective of the people that are actually providing the services,” McLean said. “NBTel is a highly skilled-type of organization in the sense of the expertise of their engineers, and the folks that they have through working the back-end of the services that they provide, so this is a company with a good solid base of engineering skill.”

As a customer, McLean added, you’ll probably want to deal with a company that is well known, and “has a base of experience in terms of providing services for other companies.”

The services are already available across Canada, Conrod said, and, as many businesses have branch offices across North America, there is the possibility that the services could be offered in the U.S. as well.

Deregulation is making it possible for companies to explore opportunities outside of Canada, according to McLean.

“It’s opened the market right up, and I think if you’re going to be a successful player, you’ve got to look beyond your own backyard – really go to where the business need or demand is,” he said.

But before any jumps into the U.S. market are made, the focus will be on making sure everything is smooth in Canada.

“It’s probably a two-step process for us: getting comfortable, and building a base of business together in Canada,” Conrod said.

For more information about the services, visit NBTel Networks at www.nbtelnetworks.com. Cisco is at www.cisco.com/ca, NBTel is at www.nbtel.com, and Aliant is at www.aliant.ca.