Provider Profile: Bandwidth.com

Although its name suggests otherwise, this company offers a full range of VoIP and other network services.

By Ted Stevenson | Posted Aug 11, 2006
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Bandwidth.com is a company born out of frustration. Co-founders Henry Kaestner and David Morken were both running small businesses (separately) and navigating the world of national telecom carriers in search of affordable, high quality Internet connectivity.

"The large carriers had focused on the consumer business and the large enterprise business," Kaestner told VoIPplanet.com—"pretty much ignoring small business customers."

"It was just a nightmarish experience," he reminisced. "The biggest frustration we'd had when we bought our T-1s was the installation process, which can take forever."

It's small wonder then, that after the two met and compared their experiences, they should decide to join forces and "create a company whose vision and mission it would be to solve the pain that small to medium-size businesses experience in the provisioning and the procurement of telecom services," as Kaestner put it. Bandwidth.com was founded in 1999.

Initially, Bandwidth.com concentrated on securing connectivity quotes for customers. "A customer would come to us and we'd return them pricing—and guaranteed best pricing at that—from every major carrier that could supply them with a T-1. In some cases it was 15 carriers, in some it was only 6 or7. We wanted to make sure we gave them selection. But we also wanted to make sure that we went beyond that," Kaestner said.

The first piece of 'going beyond' was an automated installation tracking system based on applications they'd seen in operation for Dell Computer and Federal Express. Next was an application for obtaining pricing in real time (pricing local loops is a complex business, based on distance from the customer to the carrier's point of presence, and other factors). "Over time, we'd found that one of the things we were really good at was developing systems," Kaestner explained.

Through the early years of this decade, Kaestner and Morken expanded their original vision, now aiming to be "a complete business telecommunications provider for small and medium size businesses in all 50 states," which is pretty much where the company is today.

As you'd expect, given its origins, Bandwidth can supply Internet connectivity in any capacity from fractional T-1 to OC-3 (155Mbps) plus Ethernet and MPLS (define).

For its core, SMB customers' voice needs, Bandwidth.com has two options: hosted IP PBX / VoIP service (using Sylantro technology), and a converged network offering, "Flex-T," that allows an organization to use its existing phone system but join it to the in-house IP data network.

More recently, the company has added a range of enterprise services that include SIP origination/termination and SIP trunking (directly connecting the enterprise VoIP network to the service provider's SIP network), Asterisk IP PBX implementations and other turnkey VoIP solutions.

The latest addition to the Bandwidth.com line of offerings is managed network services. These come in two flavors: 'Monitoring & Alert' and 'Managed.' "Small business wants to put it all together, make sure it's working, and then get alerts when something's coming up to [full] utilization—that's proactive and says 'there's going to be a problem,' " Kaestener explained. Managed is for customers who want network management taken entirely out of their hands. "We do all that work for them, so they never have any outages."

Kaestner has strong opinions about the importance of voice/data networking convergence in shaping the world that Bandwidth serves. The separate technology silos are going away. "It's all beginning to blend together into becoming a viable solution that customers—particularly the small to medium size business—want to buy in a bundle. They don't want to buy their T-1 from one person and then their router from another, and their voice from another." This of course creates a big opportunity for the company.

Going hand in hand with the ability to provide reliable bundled solutions is customer service, in Kaestner's eye. If Bandwidth.com was conceived to "do better than the carriers," it has prospered in taking great care of its customers. "The metric that I'd like to hang my hat on," says Kaestenr, "is we have a 99.3 percent customer retention rate on a monthly basis."

And that record has led in turn to more good things for the company. In recent years, large organizations have begun asking Bandwidth.com "Can you power our data and voice sales initiatives?"

"Probably the largest and most successful we've had up 'till now is CDW," Kaestner told VoIPplanet.com, "which over the course of the last 10 or 15 years has become the largest independent distributor of technology to SMBs. And they now have a very vibrant voice and data business that we power for them, with pricing and installation and product." Others have followed, including IBM, and most recently CompUSA.

Keeping it simple for customers, "doing better than the carriers," providing complete solutions, and following it up with conscientious customer care seems to be a good formula for success.

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