With the industry consolidation still going on, long-haul carriers and wholesale bandwidth providers have experienced increases in demand while prices eroded, subdued and stabilized during the past 12-24 months.
There are seven long-haul carriers left in the Unites States based on the information from the article Long-Haul Leaders in the March 2008 issue of Capacity Magazine – the international journal published in the UK. By CEO Judy Reed Smith, Atlantic-ACM has been inviting wholesale customers to give feedback to their providers, identifying the best-in-class providers in key areas and letting the carriers know what customers consider their strengths or weaknesses. These "customer choice awards" were selected from separate ratings of carriers by the executives, managers of network or operations or other persons involved in the purchases and operations of wholesale service by customer vertical and across a wide set of long-haul products.
The chief driver for purchases remains price, this has been so for wholesale long-haul since 1995. However in 2008, network performance almost – within 1% - as important to customers, compared to a 15 gap in importance just a year ago. Only wireless customers distinguished themselves by rating network performance as more important to their buying decisions than price. Customer choices are consistent in many areas over time, while others show shifts in opinion.
For network quality, with ratings on SLAs and network performance, AT&T and Qwest tied for first.
In customer services, which judges operation support, professionalism, expertise and ability to solve problems, Qwest and Sprint pulled in to the top.
XO inched ahead of Sprint for billing honors, reflecting accuracy as well as efficiency in conflict resolution. Key products findings were as follows: AT&T and Qwest tied as top-ranked providers of overall voice quality.
Overall price of voice products was shared between Global Crossing (NASDAQ:GLBC), Qwest and XO. In quality of data products, AT&T took top honors.
For price of data products, XO pulled ahead, with Global Crossing in second.
Within these overall product awards, Global Crossing took first place and Verizon (NYSE:VZ) second in VoIP interconnection.
Level 3 (NYSE:LVLT) pulled ahead for inter-city Ethernet, with AT&T a close second.
For 800 termination, AT&T was top, with Verizon in second.
AT&T led, with Verizon second, for IP WAN.
AT&T also was tops for long-haul packet ATM and Frame.
AT&T was first for private line in the DS1 and DS3 speed with XO in second, and those two places reversed for OC-speed private line.
AT&T also was rated first in intercity wavelengths. Ratings for price were quite different than those for quality, as you might imagine.
Detailed analyses of customers' needs and feedback to carriers will be important as the wholesale market continues to be squeezed with consolidation. Look for carriers to tighten gaps and jockey for top positions in this increasingly competitive segment.
Based on points assigned to each carrier – two points for the top rank and one point to the second, and all get two points if two or three vendors share the top rank in the same category – the seven carriers are listed here in sequence based on points they received from highest score of 15 to 2 without differentiating the importance in category:
5. Global Crossing
7. Level 3
Disclosure: Long XOHO.OB