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December 12, 2012

Commercial Services — Who Takes the Bill?

Billing service provider Cycle30, who counts Alaska operator GCI as majority shareholder, thinks it has something unique for the market: a suite of billing software solutions specifically for commercial customers. It’s certainly a hot area in cable, with MSOs focused on how to bring in money and improve margins from new customers in the business space. Cycle30 president Jim Dunlap chatted with us about why his company thinks there is a unique need in this space.
 
Who is using the platform now?
 
We’ve gone out in the market with GCI. We’re managing their entire commercial services business, which includes Service Petroleum, Wells Fargo and the State of Alaska. And we’re out selling in the market to other cable providers and to carriers. We have a couple of deals that we anticipate announcing in 1Q that are both large, commercial cable opportunities.
 
Why do distributors need something different for commercial?
 
The systems that most cable companies have in place today are geared toward residential service. The ordering of a relatively simple service—activation, provisioning, billing—are pretty straight forward. Whenever you’re talking about commercial, complex services, they often involve unique set of products that are provisioned specifically to that customer’s needs that are tied to a multi-year contract that may be spread over geography, so they have some taxation issues. There are different delivery mechanisms, so it may be a combination of voice, video and data services. None of that model is very easy to accomplish within a residential back office platform. Traditionally, companies have just tried to cram the commercial space into the residential platform, and what I think all of them are finding is that you can’t effectively manage your business on a residential platform. You need a separate set of products and tools to do that.
 
Are you more of a platform for enterprise vs. small businesses?
 
I’d say more enterprise. Certainly once you get into 10-20 employees and above, or multiple locations. A good example is we’re managing the entire State of Alaska account for GCI. So, we’ve got offices spread throughout the state, different departments, divisions, different budgets… That’s sort of the extreme case, all the way down to a 20-person, 3-location company.
 
From your view, what are you seeing in terms of commercial services expansion from operators?
 
We just left the TM Forum in Orlando [show for service providers], and it was well attended by the tier 1 cable CIOs in particular. What we noticed is that there was no conversation going on about residential service at all. The entire conversation was about 1 of 2 things: commercial services or end-to-end. We’ve seen a substantial change in the political landscape, where before the residential services ruled the roost in terms of what kinds of technology, marketing, capital investment. We’re seeing a very significant shift in that moving toward the commercial model.







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