RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK — Bandwidth.com is determined to do for ordering of high-speed and advanced network services what LendingTree.com has done for home mortgages.
Make a complex, time consuming, hair-pulling, often slow process quick, painless and money saving.
Anyone who has had to deal with phone companies, Internet Service Providers and other firms to order high-speed services knows how frustrating and l-o-n-g the process can be. From tariffs (pricing) to location determination, so on and so forth, these companies often have made broadband ordering as much fun as a visit to the doctor.
With demand for broadband services growing, the Durham firm seems positioned to catch a wave of a growing market.
“Yes, broadband deployment continues to increase, and the average business is using more bandwidth than ever before,” said Henry Kaestner, the company’s chief executive officer, “largely due to the applications (such as web conferencing) that are becoming commonplace in the market.”
Bandwidth.com, which launched in 1999, believes it has taken the pain out of broadband/telephone service ordering by building an incredibly deep database and leveraging relationships with the major telecom providers. It makes money by getting agency fees from the carriers, and the carriers work with Bandwidth.com because it helps bring them more sales.
Users of its new service visit the Bandwidth web site, enter basic information, get quotes back on pricing and place an order. Bandwidth is even there to help ensure clients get the service ordered in a timely fashion and then get good service.
“It’s amazing to think about it,” Kaestner said. “On-line and in Real-Time” ordering. “You can get pricing on just about everything else on the Internet, from livestock to paperclips, from office space to benefits packages, but there was no place that you could go on the web to get (circuit) pricing direct to your business.”
Kaestner and crew saw the service as an unmet need and potential service. Their view was reinforced by customer surveys.
First to market
But the offering has not come easily or quickly.
“We were first to market in 1999,” Kaestner said of the overall Bandwidth.com concept, “and we have been working hard on it ever since.”
The biggest obstacle, he added, was “syncing systems from ISPs, RBOCs (regional bell operating companies), gauging distance on the fly, integrating mapping and distance software and having the right high-level relationships at the carriers.”
No one should underestimate the complexity of what Bandwidth.com did with this project. Figuring out pricing from telephone companies can be a maze more difficult than Sarbanes-Oxley.
And getting the highly competitive providers to disclose sensitive information on prices, service available and such that Bandwidth.com needed to build its data base wasn’t easy, either. Thus Kaestner’s comment on “right high-level relationships.”
From the get-go, Bandwidth.com inserted itself between the service providers and customers. They helped the providers market and sell services and helped customers find the best prices.
Best prices and services
Now, Bandwidth.com has information on services and speed from 15 major carriers. Once customers enter their needs and basics, such as address, Bandwidth.com will present as many as 25 responses. And, to boot, Bandwidth.com guarantees best price. The company’s process also permits faster ordering and monitoring of the installation process, improving the speed of ordering and installing by 25 percent.
Bandwidth.com can offer best pricing because “pricing in telecom in channel neutral. The lowest price point for an AT&T circuit is available to the AT&T sales rep just as it is for the largest AT&T agent and the smallest AT&T agent,” Kaestner explained.
To further help customers, Bandwidth.com offers what it calls installation and repair “advocacy services.” The company monitors each order through the various installation steps and will make a phone call if a problem is detected. Once a circuit and/or service is installed and there is a problem, Bandwidth.com can step in to help get repairs done.
Sales continue to grow, too, as Bandwidth.com offers more services. “We sold a little more than $2.4 million of connectivity last month,” he said.
Bandwidth.com is privately funded and has grown to a staff of 39 people. Business is good enough, in fact that Kaestner said: “We are looking to continue hiring throughout the year.”
How many companies are saying that these days?
Rick Smith is managing editor of Local Tech Wire.