Qwest Angles For More SMB Business

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Qwest Communications International is developing bundled solutions for the SMB market that it plans

to co-develop with and deliver through its services partners.

The company is in talks with Ingram Micro, Tech Data and Comstor to distribute the solutions, said Pat Lewis, Qwest's senior vice president of indirect channels. He said the company is also in negotiations with vendors including IBM and Cisco Systems to bundle their technology with Qwest's offerings.

What's more, Lewis said Qwest is seeking input from companies in its Business Partner Program.

"This is not simply a carrier and distributor [deal, but [also Hewlett-Packard, Cisco and IBM,[companies with whom we have the ability to bring a complete solution to this [SMB market segment," he said.

Qwest is emphasizing partners' expertise in areas such as professional services, with an eye toward bundling that knowledge with Qwest offerings, Lewis said.

"Just hearing that partners like us that concentrate in the SMB market will be a part of this effort, [which will be backed by a marketing effort, pricing strategies and support to grow that business, is encouraging," said Jeff Kaufman, founder and CEO of service provider Linwood Communications, Newton, Mass.

"We deal with distributors in everything we do, so if this [effort is rolled out correctly it will create one place to get support, hardware, configurations, SKU-able orders,everything bundled together," said Lisa Hansen, vice president of sales at ISP IP Revolution, Bellevue, Neb.

Not all partners are as enthusiastic about a potential Qwest/distributor alliance, though, citing channel conflict and a drain on Qwest resources.

"This will open up Qwest's offerings to an uneducated channel at a time when Qwest has made it mandatory that partners be certified in their offerings," said a partner executive who requested anonymity.

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