Telus makes play for the east

Telus is open for business in the eastern Canadian telecommunications market, according to Telus Integrated Communications president Cynthia Lewis.

The telco opened its central and eastern Canada headquarters in Toronto and launched services on Nov. 9, marking the beginning of its presence in that part of the country.

Being the new kid on the block has significant benefits, Lewis said. “That means we can start fresh – start fresh in the market and be flexible and entrepreneurial” which not everyone else is capable of doing, she said.

The target for Telus is the small- to mid-size market, which Lewis said is underserved, according to the company’s research. Customers were also saying they are tired of dealing with many people, Lewis said, so Telus users will only have to deal with one executive account manager regarding all of the company’s products. As well, there is only one phone number for customers to call with any queries. And finally, customers receive a single bill detailing all their services.

Telus will make its entrance by first “focus(ing) on providing mainstream data, and internetworking services for business customers which include LAN, WAN and Internet connectivity, managed application services such as Web hosting, application development, e-commerce and virtual private networks,” Lewis said.

The company will be bundling its cellular, local and long distance options. And, to ensure the reliability of its services, the company is offering either a service level agreement or a money-back guarantee.

“We guarantee our network management reliability and we actually will give them (customers) a financial rebate, a monetary rebate, if we don’t hit that,” Lewis said.

One analyst believes that Telus will do well in the small and medium business market — a market that already has a lot of Competitive Local Exchange Carriers (CLECs) and is going to get very busy in the short term.

“They’ll probably do fairly well,” said Jordan Worth, a telecommunications analyst at IDC Canada Ltd. in Toronto. “They’ve got a lot of money behind them and certainly more immediate experience than the CLECs, so they should do well in the CLEC space where the other guys are playing.”

And despite the fact that competition is heavy in the market, Telus does have at least one thing going for it, Worth said.

“Over the next couple of years, they will be able to distinguish themselves through the technology and services that they will be developing and using through their association with GTE,” he said.

GTE Corp., Telus’ U.S. partner, will soon be merging with Bell Atlantic. The company provides the Canadian telco use of its network, products, systems and services, and Lewis said the company was exactly what Telus needed.

“In order to provide our Canadian customers with total global connectivity, we need a partner,” Lewis explained, adding that one of the primary reasons GTE was chosen was because “they have an extensive fibre optic network in the United States, and their network extends globally through the partnerships they have with a lot of different companies around the world.”

According to Worth, “the plan is that over the next five years, they’re going to be setting themselves up to essentially parallel GTE’s service offerings.” And for customers that will mean “they will have access to different kinds of services, and perhaps different set-ups.”

But for now, Telus is focused on completing a metropolitan fibre optic network in Toronto’s downtown core, which the company expects to serve more than 3,000 businesses in that area. The fibre ring should be completed by the second quarter of 2000.

And while services are also immediately available in Sarnia and Winnipeg, early 2000 will see Telus expanding to Montreal, Quebec City, Ottawa, Hull, Que., Hamilton, Ont., Kitchener-Waterloo, Ont., and London, Ont. During the implementation of the company’s national strategy, it is using providers such as Cisco Systems, Lucent Technologies Canada Corp. and Newbridge Networks Corp.

Ultimately, Worth said, Telus is in an enviable position to be able “to introduce new back office systems that make customer care certainly a little bit easier, because they don’t have to deal with legacy systems so they can start with better customer care technology from the get-go.”