handshakeDepending on how you count, there are anywhere from 800 to 1,100 rural telcos (RLECs) across the country. The RLEC segment holds promise for companies like BroadSoft and Sonus, given the ongoing transition to all IP networks and the growing opportunities for hosted unified communications (UC), but reaching them all is not an insignificant challenge. Companies like BroadSoft and Sonus are always looking for more efficient ways to reach the RLEC sector. Enter ANPI, with their historical focus on the RLEC sector and the fact that many RLECs are ANPI customers, the announced collaboration between ANPI, Sonus, and BroadSoft makes sense.

These three suppliers of hardware, software, and network infrastructure are collaborating to bring hosted UC to the RLEC market for now, with other potential solutions on the horizon. For Sonus and BroadSoft, ANPI represents an established RLEC ‘channel’ of sorts, with existing physical network reach into the segment. For ANPI, BroadSoft and Sonus provide key enabling elements for the IP applications that the RLEC sector needs to exploit for future growth and opportunity.  “Sonus and BroadSoft are their respective industry leaders. Getting them together to provide an integrated offering is both unique and important to the RLEC community,” David Byrd, Chief Marketing Officer for ANPI told Telecompetitor.

Hosted UC applications represents one of the more promising IP applications of the day, and the RLEC segment is an attractive target, given their established IP/broadband networks,  a growing appetite to monetize them, and an established customer base. Many RLECs are also looking to expand out of market to find revenue opportunities that will help replace diminishing regulated revenues and hosted UC is an attractive service offer in such an expansion.

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“Most RLECs do not have the individual resources to implement, deliver, maintain and provide necessary continual innovation to succeed with a UC offering. It is only through collaboration as an industry group in conjunctions with ANPI such an offering is achievable. ANPI, BroadSoft and Sonus recognize that working together accelerates time to market and needed innovation,” said Byrd.

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ANPI has already implemented Sonus’ Session Border Controllers (SBCs), gateways and its network policy solution into their growing national network, which is also now fully integrated with BroadSoft’s BroadWorks® platform. The trio hopes the collaboration will entice RLECs to more quickly move into the hosted UC space.

“The exciting aspect of this collaboration is the opportunity to combine BroadSoft’s UC services with the innovative service delivery and support structures ANPI has developed, along with Sonus’ carrier class infrastructure. We believe that our collaboration will enable rural carriers to utilize the collective technologies to better serve their markets by delivering the benefits of UC services for SMBs throughout rural America,” said Steve Kaish, vice president, business development, BroadSoft in a press release.

ANPI, BroadSoft, and Sonus are not alone in their desire to recruit the RLEC sector into the hosted UC fold. RLECs possess many of the necessary ingredients for hosted success, including rich IP enabled networks, customer relationships, and a need to diversify. I suspect this hosted UC focus will accelerate in the months and years to come.

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