Critical Capabilities for U.S. Wireline Telecom Services

21 March 2014 ID:G00259471
Analyst(s): Danellie Young, Robert F. Mason, Sorell Slaymaker

VIEW SUMMARY

Service execution has varied among wireline telecom providers, with several lagging in customer support and implementation. Network managers and sourcing professionals should evaluate wireline telecom service providers based on their unique requirements and how they align with specific use cases.

Overview

Key Findings

  • Nontraditional providers, including multiple system operators, are creating competitive pressure to reduce prices, especially on Ethernet and Internet services.
  • The providers in this research are primarily differentiated on service delivery, postsales support and network density.
  • Nearly all service providers support the large, midsize and branch office use cases; however, enterprise deployment costs and pricing flexibility vary significantly; larger providers aggregate more access alternatives and managed customer premises equipment and offer better integration of backup options.

Recommendations

  • Maximize leverage and commercial flexibility by including additional network service providers.
  • When soliciting bids, consider a low-cost provider as a "stalking horse."
  • Validate physical diversity when considering additional wireline providers.
  • Evaluate the local and regional provider options included herein for metro connectivity, especially in secondary (nonmetro) markets.

What You Need to Know

As WAN technology matures, service provider differentiation continues to shift from strictly technical capabilities to service delivery, change management and the quality of postsales support, essentially from order entry and design to implementation, trouble reporting and remediation.

Gartner's seven critical capabilities for vendor evaluation provide criteria to help network planners develop a shortlist of vendors and select the services that best meet their specific organizational and networking requirements. We developed this research using two primary sources of information:

  • Hundreds of client inquiries with Gartner analysts about their wireline services.
  • Network service providers' (NSPs') responses to questions from Gartner that gave them an opportunity to discuss their past performance, product strategies and wireline product road maps.

Enterprises are increasingly tailoring their acquisition criteria for wireline services based on specific use cases. Therefore, use the scoring of these vendors, along with the use case examples, as part of an objective selection process. Buyers should weight criteria according to their own business, technology, and operational requirements and plans for their enterprise network architectures.

Analysis

Introduction

Gartner estimates that the demand for more network capacity continues to grow at 28% per year, fueled by cloud connectivity, mobile devices, videoconferencing and growth in data volume (see "How Cloud, Mobile and Video Will Increase Enterprise Bandwidth Needs Through 2017"). Clients are also continuing the transition of circuit-switched voice to voice over IP (VoIP), which also drives the need for more bandwidth. U.S. telecom services (voice and data) continue to represent 15% of the overall IT budget for enterprises; therefore, regular review and scrutiny of the providers, including their service performance, support and contracts, are necessary.

Provider selection raises ongoing questions about which vendor can deliver the best performance, guarantee timely installations and responsiveness throughout the contract term. For example, providers continue to actively transition time division multiplexing (TDM) voice customers to Session Initiation Protocol (SIP); however, Gartner clients report that many of the trials and implementations are fraught with operational challenges. Consequently, enterprises are enduring longer quoting cycles, lengthy provisioning timelines and remediation delays as carriers continue to reduce head count.

The enterprise needs to source multiple providers and to conduct a full assessment of their available offerings as contracts come up for renewal. Gartner continues to see year-over-year rate declines across all wireline services, ranging from 2% to 7%, especially for highly competitive high-speed connections. Few providers offer differentiated services such as WAN optimization, cloud interconnect, flexible billing, network backup alternatives and dynamic bandwidth allocation. Reach and fiber footprint should also factor in, because facilities-based assets often positively affect service cost, delivery and remediation. Lastly, prices continue to decline, especially for high-speed connections.

Product Class Definition

For this Critical Capabilities research, Gartner focuses on telecommunications services for fixed, voice and/or data. This research provides an assessment of a carrier's ability to provide these services directly to midsize and large enterprises, both in single-service and multiservice WAN (i.e., blended or "hybrid") fashion. Although this research does not evaluate consumer services and products, the extent to which the providers participate in these areas is taken into account in applicable selection criteria, such as financial viability.

Critical Capabilities Definition

To help clients determine which providers can best meet their requirements, Gartner has identified seven key areas of critical capabilities, which are listed by their overall weighting:

  • Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) Services — A private, Layer 3 IP networking service, based on label-switched paths, MPLS offers class-of-service (CoS) attributes. It can be delivered over last-mile access types that include DS-1 and DS-3 access, fiber and copper-based Ethernet access, broadband/DSL and wireless/3G/4G.
  • SIP Trunking/IPTF/On-Net Voice — SIP trunking consists of virtual voice trunks, typically sold as concurrent calls delivered over an IP network. This category also includes ISDN Primary Rate Interface (PRI) and public switched telephone network (PSTN) services.
  • Dedicated Internet — Dedicated Internet includes traditional point-to-point Internet capacity from the carrier's public IP backbone. These services are typically available from subrate T1 up to 10 Gbps port speeds.
  • Metro Private Line — High-bandwidth private line connectivity includes Synchronous Optical Network (SONET), wavelength and Ethernet Private Line (EPL) and Ethernet Virtual Private Line (EVPL) services to interconnect sites within a metro region. These services include both point-to-point and multipoint connections, with speeds as fast as 10 Gbps.
  • Managed and Redundant Broadband — Aggregated and managed NSP broadband connectivity includes ADSL, symmetric DSL (SDSL), cable, and satellite in support of Internet or virtual private network (VPN) connectivity.
  • Ethernet WAN — Carrier Ethernet solutions include point-to-point, point-to-multipoint and (switched) multipoint services, with port speeds ranging from 1 Mbps to 100 Gbps. These services include EPL, EVPL and virtual private LAN service (VPLS).
  • Managed Routers — Provisioning and management of routers on the customer premises provides a range of functionality extending from "monitor and notify" through full physical and logical management.

For each of these services, Gartner has factored in providers' ability to execute, service delivery and postsales customer support, technology, price competitiveness and coverage/reach. We rated each provider's services based on their relative strengths against similar services from other providers in this research.

Use Cases

This research identifies a set of characteristic use cases (see Table 1) that group product capabilities to fit specific enterprise requirements. In each of these use cases, the percentage blend represented the sensitivity to the company's tolerance for risk, instead of numbers of ports or product revenue.

  • Overall — This is the general enterprise use case with a normalized weighting based on relative wireline service importance that serves as the baseline.
  • Large-Enterprise Unmanaged — This enterprise is an entity with more than 1,000 employees and buys a combination of voice and data services. This buyer prefers to use private WAN services such as MPLS or Ethernet, and it is the biggest adopter of SIP trunking to date. The buyer has elected to monitor WAN connectivity and performance itself, and to notify the NSP in the event of performance degradation. This buyer is typically highly technically competent and/or routinely makes many granular changes in customer premises equipment (CPE) or telecom services.
  • Large-Enterprise Managed — This is a commercial entity with more than 1,000 employees that prefers managed services, including managed routers and WAN-related services, such as optimization. These organizations continue to look at MPLS, Ethernet/wavelength and Internet for their core services.
  • Midsize Enterprise — This enterprise has between 500 and 999 employees, where self-managed voice and data services are fundamental to their core design and infrastructure. These clients leverage IP VPN and MPLS offerings, depending on coverage, as well as look at 4G wireless support and bundled services. These entities often include larger imbedded base of traditional analog voice deployment.
  • Hybrid WAN Network — This is a network topology that relies more heavily on a mix of Internet VPN and MPLS, rather than focusing solely on private WAN services (MPLS and Ethernet) for site-level connectivity. The integration of Ethernet is strongly considered for large-bandwidth/high-capacity port speeds to support legacy protocols and better user flexibility, such as data center connectivity.
  • Branch Office — These organizations have a number of remote branch offices to support, and use wireline services to connect the smaller branch offices to centralized resources, often including the headquarters or data centers. A typical branch office supports 25 to 50 employees. Scores for this use case are more than simply offering broadband. They are a blend of all the other ratings, including IPVPN, MPLS subrates, dedicated Internet access (DIA) and 4G bundles; Ethernet services would not be applicable. Many branch office environments favor managed routers due to minimal on-site staffing.
Table 1. Weighting for Critical Capabilities in Use Cases

Critical Product Capabilities

Overall

Large-Enterprise Unmanaged

Large-Enterprise Managed

Midsize Enterprise

Hybrid Network

Branch Office

MPLS

30.0%

40.0%

35.0%

25.0%

20.0%

15.0%

SIP Trunking, IPTF and Dedicated Voice

25.0%

30.0%

25.0%

20.0%

25.0%

20.0%

Dedicated Internet

20.0%

10.0%

10.0%

25.0%

25.0%

22.0%

Metro (SONET, Wavelength and Ethernet)

10.0%

12.0%

10.0%

3.0%

3.0%

0.0%

Managed and Redundant Broadband

7.0%

3.0%

5.0%

13.0%

10.0%

22.0%

Ethernet WAN

5.0%

5.0%

5.0%

10.0%

12.0%

0.0%

Managed Routers

3.0%

0.0%

10.0%

4.0%

5.0%

21.0%

Total

100%

100%

100%

100%

100%

100%

Source: Gartner (March 2014)

Inclusion Criteria

Products covered in this research come from providers included in prior Gartner research and are based on carriers discussed in inquiries. The following criteria were used to qualify providers for inclusion in this research:

  • Previous year (FY12) U.S. revenue — More than $250 million
  • Percentage of network-oriented revenue — More than 25% derived from enterprise-class transport services, such as MPLS
  • Retail revenue (versus wholesale) — More than 50%
  • Minimum percentage of U.S.-based retail revenue — 25%
  • Percentage of enterprise-oriented retail revenue — More than 10%
  • Percentage of enterprise clients — More than 10%
  • Enterprise-dedicated sales force — Required
  • Enterprise hardware sold (e.g., routers or IP PBXs) — Required

Critical Capabilities Rating

Each of the service offerings that meet our inclusion criteria has been evaluated on several critical capabilities (see Table 2 and Figure 1), on a scale from 1.0 (lowest ranking) to 5.0 (highest ranking).

Table 2. Product Rating on Critical Capabilities

Product Rating

AT&T

CenturyLink

Comcast Business

Level 3

Sprint

tw telecom

Verizon

Windstream
Communications

XO
Communications

MPLS

4.0

3.5

1.0

4.0

3.5

3.0

4.0

3.0

3.5

SIP Trunking, IPTF and Dedicated Voice

4.0

3.5

2.5

4.5

2.5

3.0

4.0

2.5

3.5

Dedicated Internet

4.5

4.0

3.5

4.5

4.0

3.5

4.0

3.0

3.5

Metro (SONET/
Wavelength/
Ethernet)

4.5

3.5

3.0

3.5

3.5

4.0

4.0

2.5

3.5

Managed and Redundant Broadband

4.5

2.5

4.5

1.5

3.0

1.0

4.0

2.0

2.0

Ethernet WAN

4.0

3.5

4.0

3.5

2.0

3.5

4.0

2.5

3.5

Managed Routers

4.0

3.0

1.0

3.5

3.5

3.0

4.0

3.5

3.0

Source: Gartner (March 2014)

Figure 1. Overall Score for Each Provider's Product Based on the Nonweighted Score for Each Critical Capability
Figure 1.Overall Score for Each Provider's Product Based on the Nonweighted Score for Each Critical Capability

Source: Gartner (March 2014)

To determine an overall score for each product in the use cases, the ratings in Table 2 were multiplied by the weightings shown in Table 1. These scores are shown in Table 3.

Table 3. Product Score in Use Cases

Use Cases

AT&T

CenturyLink

Comcast Business

Level 3

Sprint

tw telecom

Verizon

Windstream
Communications

XO
Communications

Overall

4.2

3.5

2.5

4.0

3.2

3.1

4.0

2.7

3.4

Large-Enterprise Unmanaged

4.1

3.5

2.2

4.0

3.2

3.1

4.0

2.7

3.5

Large-Enterprise Managed

4.1

3.5

2.2

3.9

3.2

3.1

4.0

2.8

3.4

Midsize Enterprise

4.2

3.5

2.7

3.8

3.2

2.9

4.0

2.7

3.3

Hybrid WAN Network

4.2

3.5

2.8

3.9

3.1

3.0

4.0

2.7

3.3

Branch Office

4.2

3.3

2.6

3.6

3.3

2.7

4.0

2.8

3.1

Source: Gartner (March 2014)

Product viability is distinct from the critical capability scores for each product. It is our assessment of the vendor's strategy and its ability to enhance and support a product throughout its expected life cycle; it is not an evaluation of the vendor as a whole. Four major areas are considered:

  • Strategy — Includes how a vendor's strategy for a particular product fits in relation to the vendor's other product lines, its market direction and its business overall. As a result of VPN evolution, innovative bundling and product simplification, AT&T led the other providers in this category.
  • Support — Includes the quality of technical and account support, as well as customer experiences with that product. In this research, Level 3 and CenturyLink led their peers in this category for postsales experiences with SIP trunking (Level 3) and WAN migration (CenturyLink).
  • Execution — Considers a vendor's structure and processes for sales, marketing, pricing and deal management. Vendors varied in consistency in this category, and no clear leaders emerged from the individual ratings.
  • Investment — Considers the vendor's financial health and the likelihood that the individual business unit responsible for a product will continue investing in it. While AT&T and Verizon scored slightly higher, Gartner continues to see investments being made by all participants.

Each product is rated on a five-point scale from poor to outstanding for each of these four areas. It is then assigned an overall product viability rating (see Table 4). As a result of financial viability and sustained capital investment in the wireline product portfolio, AT&T and Verizon received the highest ratings in this category. Although the table suggests all the providers are at parity with one other in overall viability, there are strengths and cautions for each provider. These are detailed further in the Vendors section.

Table 4. Product Viability

AT&T

CenturyLink

Comcast Business

Level 3

Sprint

tw telecom

Verizon

Windstream
Communications

XO
Communications

Product Viability

Good

Good

Good

Good

Good

Good

Good

Good

Good

Source: Gartner (March 2014)

The weighted capabilities scores for all use cases are displayed as components of the overall use case score (see Figure 2).

Figure 2. Provider's Product Scores for the Overall Use Case
Figure 2.Provider's Product Scores for the Overall Use Case

Source: Gartner (March 2014)

Figure 3 shows the large-enterprise unmanaged use case.

Figure 3. Provider's Product Scores for Large-Enterprise Unmanaged Use Case
Figure 3.Provider's Product Scores for Large-Enterprise Unmanaged Use Case

Source: Gartner (March 2014)

Figure 4 shows the large-enterprise managed use case.

Figure 4. Provider's Product Scores for Large-Enterprise Managed Use Case
Figure 4.Provider's Product Scores for Large-Enterprise Managed Use Case

Source: Gartner (March 2014)

Figure 5 shows the midsize-enterprise use case.

Figure 5. Provider's Product Scores for Midsize-Enterprise Use Case
Figure 5.Provider's Product Scores for Midsize-Enterprise Use Case

Source: Gartner (March 2014)

Figure 6 shows the hybrid WAN network use case.

Figure 6. Provider's Product Scores for Hybrid WAN Network Use Case
Figure 6.Provider's Product Scores for Hybrid WAN Network Use Case

Source: Gartner (March 2014)

Figure 7 shows the branch office use case.

Figure 7. Provider's Product Scores for Branch Office Use Case
Figure 7.Provider's Product Scores for Branch Office Use Case

Source: Gartner (March 2014)

Vendors

AT&T

AT&T: Overall Product Rating, 4.21; Overall Use Case, 4.2

AT&T continues to deliver a comprehensive portfolio of wireline services ranging from managed broadband to high-speed waves, and remains a preferred supplier for large private network deployments. As wireline services are increasingly bundled and integrated, AT&T has managed to limit churn and drive loyalty by attaching multiple services. AT&T continues to expand options for managed and hybrid networks, and has also announced direct integration of its MPLS fabric with several cloud providers that will simplify provisioning and optimization.

Wireline service execution for AT&T has been consistent in 2013, with the exception of SIP trunk trials and migrations, where Gartner clients have reported challenges with service delivery and turn-up. We have received no reports of degradation in service quality or support caused by AT&T's voluntary workforce reductions, but will continue to monitor client satisfaction with AT&T's customer service and support. Larger enterprises should strongly consider AT&T for all of the use cases covered here, although price-sensitive, smaller enterprises should include secondary providers in the sourcing process (see Table 5).

Table 5. Critical Capabilities Rating for AT&T's Networking Services

Critical Capability

Product/Service Name and Brief Description

Rating

MPLS

AT&T leads with its AT&T VPN (AVPN), and offers Private Network Transport (PNT) for smaller domestic enterprises. Rich offerings in features and reach, include support for 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE). EVPN customers will be required to migrate to AVPN by 2017.

4.0

SIP Trunking/
IPTF/Dedicated Voice

MPLS and IP service networks fully integrate with voice and UC solutions. Traditional voice is covered through a dense footprint.

4.0

Dedicated Internet

Consistent, high-performing CoS-enabled network, with speeds up to 10 Gbps.

4.5

Metro (SONET, Wavelength, Ethernet)

Portfolio includes GigaMAN, DecaMAN and switched services within its legacy local-exchange carrier (LEC) footprint.

4.5

Managed and Redundant Broadband

Services include SDSL, ADSL, cable, Wi-Fi and 3G/4G.

4.5

Ethernet WAN

Dense metro and national EPL, EVPL and Ethernet LAN services.

4.0

Managed Routers

Managed WAN, LAN, and router solutions.

4.0

Source: Gartner (March 2014)

CenturyLink

CenturyLink: Overall Product Rating, 3.36; Overall Use Case, 3.5

CenturyLink provides a full range of business networking solutions, including MPLS, Ethernet, IP voice and managed services. CenturyLink continues to augment its services and develop competitive offerings. In 2013, Gartner witnessed a more-focused product direction and plan from CenturyLink than in prior years, although it's less progressive than its peers. Gartner is seeing more traction with advanced services and more visible success with larger clients, as CenturyLink looks to penetrate the large-enterprise market. CenturyLink is viewed as lagging slightly behind key providers in relation to SIP, interconnect strategy and portals.

Gartner clients continue to praise CenturyLink's execution and customer support, as it remains consistent and competitive, relative to its peers. As Gartner clients look to renew network contracts, CenturyLink is nearly always considered and evaluated among other providers, which is an improvement during the past two years. Midsize to large enterprises with a majority of their sites in the U.S. should consider CenturyLink for wireline services, because of its comprehensive product portfolio, competitive pricing and consistent performance (see Table 6).

Table 6. Critical Capabilities Rating for CenturyLink's Networking Services

Critical Capability

Product/Service Name and Brief Description

Rating

MPLS

Broad-reaching MPLS services, flexible billing options and enhanced reporting differentiate its offering.

3.5

SIP Trunking/
IPTF/Dedicated Voice

Hosted and fully managed SIP, including a range of SIP trunking features.

3.5

Dedicated Internet

Internet services offer a full range of port speeds up to 10 Gbps, with flexible billing, including support for aggregate ports for multiple services.

4.0

Metro (SONET, Wavelength, Ethernet)

Portfolio includes metro Ethernet services, traditional SONET and Ethernet over SONET interfaces, and Optical Wavelength with speeds up to 100 Gbps.

3.5

Managed and Redundant Broadband

Both DSL and satellite access are available via partners. No cellular service is available as part of the standard offer.

2.5

Ethernet WAN

Layer 2 Ethernet VPLS is available globally.

3.5

Managed Routers

Complete suite of managed services, including bundles targeting midmarket customers.

3.0

Source: Gartner (March 2014)

Comcast Business

Comcast Business: Overall Product Rating, 2.79; Overall Use Case, 2.5

Comcast Business is a new entrant in the Critical Capabilities for U.S. wireline services. As the largest cable management services organization (MSO) in the U.S., Comcast continues to add incremental transport and networking services to a growing fiber footprint that leverages its residential fiber-deep architecture. Beginning with HFC Internet and voice services to small and midsize businesses (SMBs), Comcast has added high-capacity Ethernet services suitable for metro Enterprise connectivity and a growing range of Ethernet subrate options to fill in gaps that competitors experience below 10 Mbps port speeds.

Comcast has also embarked on a marketplace strategy for a value-added application called Upware that vets third-party providers and offers one-stop shopping, provisioning and billing. With a reach that now extends to 39 states, Comcast can be aggressive on price, especially within its dense fiber footprint. A strong vertical focus is also evident, as Comcast is gaining traction in the K-12, healthcare, hospitality and retail segments. However, unlike other competitors, Comcast has not deployed MPLS yet, and is in market trials with SIP trunking after focusing on rolling out hosted voice across its footprint (see Table 7).

Table 7. Critical Capabilities Rating for Comcast Business's Networking Services

Critical Capability

Product/Service Name and Brief Description

Rating

MPLS

No current nationwide MPLS offer.

1.0

SIP Trunking/
IPTF/Dedicated Voice

Offers a fully managed cloud voice solution over an IP network. PRI trunks are also available for prioritized voice.

2.5

Dedicated Internet

Full continuum of Internet services at speeds from 1 Mbps to 10 Gbps.

3.5

Metro (SONET, Wavelength, Ethernet)

Limited geography for wavelength services, as larger focus remains on delivering high capacity via Ethernet.

3.0

Managed and Redundant Broadband

Leveraging its HFC plant, Comcast offers solutions with speeds as high as 150/20 Mbps.

4.5

Ethernet WAN

Extensive portfolio to address metro, wide-area Ethernet offering and VPLS.

4.0

Managed Routers

Doesn't support a standard, managed router service.

1.0

Source: Gartner (March 2014)

Level 3 Communications

Level 3 Communications: Overall Product Rating, 3.57; Overall Use Case, 4.0

Level 3 continues to deliver a strong set of offerings, especially in the areas of SIP, Ethernet and Internet services. To more effectively meet the needs of larger enterprise customers, the carrier has spent time and effort growing its network footprint, creating higher bandwidth options, and enhancing its video and cloud-connected solutions. Level 3 continues to deliver competitively priced, high-capacity services, such as high-capacity waves. Overall, Level 3's execution remains fairly strong, with consistent postsales customer support. The integration of Global Crossing is nearly complete, which has dramatically improved its overall size/revenue.

To meet enterprise client requirements, Level 3 is growing its presence, which enables it to compete head-to-head with Tier 1 providers. However, Level 3 continues to lag in providing the breadth of productized, managed and redundant broadband solutions that some competitors offer. Gartner has also observed that the attach rate for managed services is also lower than its competitors. All enterprises should consider Level 3 for services such as SIP trunking and dedicated Internet (see Table 8), because these are particularly noteworthy.

Table 8. Critical Capabilities Rating for Level 3's Networking Services

Critical Capability

Product/Service Name and Brief Description

Rating

MPLS

Competitive MPLS offer, including enhanced portal capabilities, application performance management (APM) and flexible billing.

4.0

SIP Trunking/
IPTF/Dedicated Voice

Strong set of SIP capabilities over a 100% SIP backbone. Platform supports reroute options for business continuity.

4.5

Dedicated Internet

Scalable Internet network, including online enterprise ordering tool.

4.5

Metro (SONET, Wavelength, Ethernet)

Complete set of private line, wavelength and Ethernet transport for low-latency requirements. Metro services delivered on-net and via third-party agreements.

3.5

Managed and Redundant Broadband

4G LTE wireless backup available through third-party wireless partners. Limited DSL and cable access available.

1.5

Ethernet WAN

EVPL and VPLS available, with a wide range of speeds and bandwidth configurations.

3.5

Managed Routers

Native managed support for Cisco and Adtran CPE equipment.

3.5

Source: Gartner (March 2014)

Sprint

Sprint: Overall Product Rating, 3.14; Overall Use Case, 3.2

Client feedback remains fairly positive for Sprint, although Gartner has seen fewer Sprint wireline proposals than in the prior year. Now that SoftBank has acquired Sprint, clients are anxious to see the impact of the merger. Gartner anticipates that with the additional capital investment, wireline services and networks will become a bigger priority versus the recent past, although customers continue to comment that Sprint continues to focus on its wireless business first and foremost, which is likely to continue. Compared with its competitors, Sprint continues to deliver a simple set of pricing and products, offering straightforward managed bundles and consistent postsales support. Sprint continues to offer a robust and comprehensive MNS portfolio that's simple and straightforward, although the attach rate is lower than its competitors. Sprint continues to grow its access footprint, especially to meet growing demand for Ethernet access.

Sprint recently launched Ethernet Wave Service, which is its initial entry into Ethernet WAN services. This fills a longstanding portfolio gap. Sprint's standard SIP trunking service supports shared, concurrent call paths among geographically distributed locations. It is "burstable," allowing customers to burst up to 100% of their contracted capacity saving in the number of trunks required, compared with the competition. Sprint doesn't support SIP on its dedicated Internet network into primary sites; however, it does support it in remote locations. Sprint's managed solutions lack some key features, such as rich WAN optimization.

Although Sprint continues to present a single sales force and customer care support team for both wireless and wireline services, Gartner clients have shared that Sprint's presales/postsales experience for wireline services is declining in responsiveness and customer support. Enterprise clients looking for competitive MPLS, Internet and integrated SIP trunking services should consider Sprint (see Table 9).

Table 9. Critical Capabilities Rating for Sprint's Networking Services

Critical Capability

Product/Service Name and Brief Description

Rating

MPLS

Simple pricing approach, with CoS and features such as multicasting included for all ports. Most of the access into the MPLS cloud remains via third parties.

3.5

SIP Trunking/IPTF/Dedicated Voice

SIP trunking and SIP toll-free are offered. There is no additional charge for the aggregation of trunks across multiple sites, which reduces the number of trunks required.

2.5

Dedicated Internet

Expansive IP network, with rich Web reporting and self-service portals, consistent with broader Sprint WAN services.

4.0

Metro (SONET, Wavelength, Ethernet)

Metro Private Line, SONET and Wavelength are offered for very high-bandwidth requirements.

3.5

Managed and Redundant Broadband

Business DSL and wireless for primary and secondary connectivity.

3.0

Ethernet WAN

Dedicated and aggregated Ethernet access continues to grow, with speeds ranging from 2 Mbps to 1 Gbps. New Ethernet Wave high-speed, private line services (10 Gbps, 40 Gbps and 100 Gbps) are now available in 88 markets. No switched Ethernet service is available.

2.0

Managed Routers

Simple approach and pricing, with one worldwide rate per device for all domestic and global locations. Consistently available across the network services globally.

3.5

Source: Gartner (March 2014)

tw telecom

tw telecom: Overall Product Rating, 3.0; Overall Use Case, 3.1

tw telecom remains focused on growing its nationwide footprint to more effectively compete with other national providers. While densely covering the eastern and southeastern U.S., tw telecom is also able to deliver MPLS, Ethernet, Internet and SIP services to customers from its 80 sales and service offices throughout the U.S. These services are delivered over its national, fiber infrastructure and IP backbone, as well as through partnerships. This enables the company to deliver managed services, including business Ethernet, IPVPN, and converged solutions for enterprises for seamless cloud connectivity and enterprisewide solutions.

When compared with its larger competitors, tw telecom remains somewhat behind in its ability to support wireless, with its broadband solutions and offering a vast array of managed solutions to its enterprise clients. tw telecom has remained focused on its core services, its intelligent networking and expanding coverage to meet the customers' growing requirements. Midsize to large enterprises with U.S. locations that have a high degree of overlap with tw telecom's footprint should consider the company for local and long-haul MPLS and Ethernet, or for backup data services (see Table 10).

Table 10. Critical Capabilities Rating for tw telecom's Networking Services

Critical Capability

Product/Service Name and Brief Description

Rating

MPLS

National coverage with its owned infrastructure and through special access agreements; however, it lacks deep coverage in secondary markets.

3.0

SIP Trunking/
IPTF/Dedicated Voice

Full SIP trunking suite available, including traditional public switched telephone network (PSTN) toll-free connection over its SIP trunk. No IP toll-free is offered.

3.0

Dedicated Internet

Dedicated IP backbone, with T1 up to 100 Gbps access options available.

3.5

Metro (SONET, Wavelength, Ethernet)

Full range of TDM-based services ranging from T1 to OC-192, wavelengths at 2.5 Gbps and 40/100 Gbps. E-Line also available from 2 Mbps to 10 Gbps.

4.0

Managed and Redundant Broadband

Limited wireless access strategy available using 3G/4G. Does not offer a managed broadband solution for enterprises.

1.0

Ethernet WAN

Nationwide E-LAN and VPLS services over its fiber network from 80 national sales and service offices.

3.5

Managed Routers

Managed services packages are available for WAN services.

3.0

Source: Gartner (March 2014)

Verizon

Verizon: Overall Product Rating, 4.0; Overall Use Case, 4.0

Verizon continued to invest in its wireline portfolio in 2013, adding to one of the largest domestic voice and data networks. Ethernet options were extended through a growing list of partner interconnects, while Verizon is offering, in select markets, in-region Ethernet services over GPON optical infrastructure. Verizon has also introduced 100GE for enterprises looking to drive replication and highly available networks. Cloud and SaaS connectivity have also been enhanced, with Verizon now extending its Private IP MPLS network into Equinix data centers to reduce provisioning and improve latency.

Unlike its larger rivals, Verizon still has barriers between its wireline and wireless sides, which makes it more challenging for clients to negotiate unified agreements and slowing the rollout of hybrid commercial offers. Based on direct feedback from Gartner inquiry, Verizon remains challenged in service delivery for high-speed optical services, and is also trailing its peer group in responsiveness to network performance issues, especially for midsize Private IP enterprise clients. Enterprises of all sizes should consider Verizon for each of the key use cases presented in this research; however, SMBs may find better support, responsiveness and prices from smaller carriers (see Table 11).

Table 11. Critical Capabilities Rating for Verizon's Networking Services

Critical Capability

Product/Service Name and Brief Description

Rating

MPLS

Private IP has expansive reach in the U.S. and beyond, offering a wide range of access ports and rich features, including dynamic bandwidth allocation.

4.0

SIP Trunking/
IPTF/Dedicated Voice

Verizon offers VoIP to its U.S. customers in more than 360 local metropolitan markets by leveraging its local switches/infrastructure. In areas in which it lacks a local footprint, it offers only long-distance service.

4.0

Dedicated Internet

Full breadth of port speeds on a dedicated IP backbone.

4.0

Metro (SONET, Wavelength, Ethernet)

Point-to-point solutions at speeds from OC3 to OC192 on a metro basis, between local access and transport area (LATA) and internationally. 1 Gbps, 2.5 Gbps, 10 Gbps and 40 Gbps waves as unprotected (linear) or protected point-to-point or hub and end-link service are also available. SONET rings are available at speeds of OC3 to OC192.

4.0

Managed and Redundant Broadband

Managed Wi-Fi for business enabled via Meraki. Verizon delivered DSL and partner broadband services, such as ADSL, SDSL and cable broadband services, are delivered by partners, such as Covad (MegaPath) and New Edge Networks. Also offers 3G/4G LTE connectivity for backup. Satellite access options are also available.

4.0

Ethernet WAN

VPLS and EVPL are available in the U.S. as part of the Verizon Ethernet WAN Services portfolio, offering point-to-point, point-to-multipoint and multipoint Layer 2 VPN configuration options.

4.0

Managed Routers

A range of managed devices is supported in-house, with a variety of management options available.

4.0

Source: Gartner (March 2014)

Windstream Communications

Windstream Communications: Overall Product Rating, 2.71; Overall Use Case, 2.7

Windstream targets SMBs, as demonstrated by its more simplistic product approach, delivering fully managed VoIP services, including transport, CPE, handsets and call control platforms for a per-seat rate. Although Windstream has successfully completed a number of mergers and acquisitions, it remains focused on product rationalization since our last report. Windstream offers enterprise services, along with a sizable footprint designed to meet the needs of the most enterprises, and it continues to succeed with such verticals as financial, retail, healthcare and education markets.

Windstream continues to gain traction with midsize enterprises, and remains focused on service delivery, which Gartner clients tell us has improved. Midsize enterprises looking for competitive voice and data services should consider Windstream, as should larger enterprises seeking redundant Internet or backup data services (see Table 12).

Table 12. Critical Capabilities Rating for Windstream's Networking Services

Critical Capability

Product/Service Name and Brief Description

Rating

MPLS

Provider of U.S.-based MPLS services, with standard features, QoS and reporting support. Most visible with SMBs, as evidenced from Gartner inquiries.

3.0

SIP Trunking/
IPTF/Dedicated Voice

Coverage is comprehensive for voice services portfolio and includes both SIP trunking and IPTF services. Limited success with larger enterprises, based on Gartner inquiries.

2.5

Dedicated Internet

Windstream offers a full range of dedicated Internet connectivity.

3.0

Metro (SONET, Wavelength, Ethernet)

Fiber presence is more concentrated in the eastern U.S., with limited optical capillarity outside major market cities. Little to no network growth expected in 2014.

2.5

Managed and Redundant Broadband

Windstream has supported customized broadband solutions, but continues to lack standard offerings to address requirements for broadband for its enterprise customers.

2.0

Ethernet WAN

Windstream's Ethernet services are limited to Virtual LAN Service (VLS), which is a Layer 2 pseudowire solution over its MPLS network.

2.5

Managed Routers

Attachment of managed routers is on par with larger competitors and perhaps better than its peer group. A recent enhancement to its offer provides a level of reporting detail comparable to that provided by competitive products.

3.5

Source: Gartner (March 2014)

XO Communications

XO Communications: Overall Product Rating, 3.21; Overall Use Case, 3.4

XO continues to be successful by offering transport services to a broad range of midsize to large customers. Its straightforward approach is attractive to Gartner clients that are looking for simplified contracts and prices. This sets XO apart from the larger providers. For example, XO is one of the only providers that offers SIP trunks at fixed prices that include unlimited long-distance and local voice services. It continues to focus on the growth of its Ethernet footprint. In 2013, XO upgraded its network to 100 Gbps, and can support IP traffic up to those speeds with continued upgrades planned to provide additional reach, bandwidth and technology capabilities for customers. Much work has been done to enhance the customer experience, including offering a usage-based billing approach and adding a new customer portal for consolidated self-service management.

XO has made significant progress with its managed services (managed routers). XO also offers a rich, managed broadband suite, in-house and via partners. And although XO uses partners in its SIP solution, it has the advantage of deployment flexibility, depends less than its larger peers on a legacy voice services infrastructure and is one of the few providers offering "session-less" SIP, with unlimited local and on-net calling. Midsize to large enterprises should consider XO for voice and data services, including dedicated Internet, SIP trunks and optical connectivity (see Table 13).

Table 13. Critical Capabilities Rating for XO's Networking Services

Critical Capability

Product/Service Name and Brief Description

Rating

MPLS

XO's MPLS offer is fairly competitive and feature-rich, and continues to be most successful with midsize enterprises. XO's MPLS integrates seamlessly with its VPLS, voice, DIA, security and cloud services across the same interface.

3.5

SIP Trunking/IPTF/Dedicated Voice

This provider has gained traction in several key verticals with its SIP offer. Unlike many of its competitors, XO does not mandate its own VPN transport as a precondition for deploying its SIP service.

3.5

Dedicated Internet

It competes on a combination of price and converged services to deliver dedicated Internet to midsize enterprises and a growing number of large enterprises.

3.5

Metro (SONET, Wavelength, Ethernet)

Competitive wave services are offered in 75 U.S. cities, with speeds up to 100 Gbps.

3.5

Managed and Redundant Broadband

XO will support managed failover between IPVPN and MPLS with customer-provided broadband connections.

2.0

Ethernet WAN

VPLS, metro and long-haul Ethernet services are available up to 100 Gbps on a nationwide basis.

3.5

Managed Routers

Enhancements made to the managed portfolio include managed routers, whereby a Dimension Data partnership enables XO to support large, custom opportunities.

3.0

Source: Gartner (March 2014)

Critical Capabilities Methodology

Critical capabilities are attributes that differentiate products in a class in terms of their quality and performance. Gartner recommends that users consider the set of critical capabilities as some of the most important criteria for acquisition decisions.

This methodology requires analysts to identify the critical capabilities for a class of products. Each capability is then weighted in terms of its relative importance overall, as well as for specific product use cases. Next, products are rated in terms of how well they achieve each of the critical capabilities. A score that summarizes how well they meet the critical capabilities overall, and for each use case, is then calculated for each product.

The critical capabilities that Gartner has selected do not represent all capabilities for any product or service. Therefore, they may not represent those most important for a specific use situation or business objective. Clients should use a critical capabilities analysis as one of several sources of input about a product before making an acquisition decision.

Ratings and summary scores range from 1.0 to 5.0:

  1. = Poor: Most or all defined requirements not achieved
  2. = Fair: Some requirements not achieved
  3. = Good: Meets requirements
  4. = Excellent: Meets or exceeds some requirements
  5. = Outstanding: Significantly exceeds requirements