Windstream Hopes To Win Back SMBs With Combined SD-WAN, UCaaS Offering

Windstream is looking at the small-to-midsized business market with fresh eyes. The telecom service provider is once again opening the door for SMB customers – and partners selling into these accounts – by way of its newly-combined UCaaS and SD-WAN offering.

"We are very specifically in business in the SMB space, focused on UCaaS and SD-WAN," said Brian Crotty, Windstream's president of midmarket and small business.

In 2016, Windstream eliminated SMB customer accounts worth under $1,500 a month and said at the time that it wouldn't accept new orders from its channel partners under that threshold. Windstream's channel chief Olen Scott told CRN in April that the company was planning to reverse its earlier decision and open small business customer accounts back up to partners.

[Related: Windstream Packages Business Continuity, Connectivity Into One Solution For Partners And Customers]

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"We're going to market our services to small businesses, and we are excited to leverage the channel and let partners attack that market, but we have to do it in a way that makes good business sense," Scott said of the planned change in April.

Windstream is "relaunching" into the SMB space as a cloud solution provider, not just an access provider, Crotty said.

To that end, Windstream in April acquired Rye Brook, N.Y.-based Broadview Networks for $227.5 million to advance and expand on its own cloud-based UC portfolio. Windstream closed the deal at the end of July.

The latest UCaaS and SD-WAN offering pairs Broadview's cloud-based UC platform OfficeSuite with Windstream's VeloCloud-powered SD-WAN offering. OfficeSuite with Windstream SD-WAN bundles phone, contact center, chat, video and collaboration tools, while ensuring uptime of these applications with up to a 100 percent SLA. Using the solution, customers can easily manage their bandwidth and route traffic over private and public connections through the Windstream Concierge SD-WAN management tool, according to Little Rock, Ark.-based Windstream.

Windstream partners will have immediate access to sell OfficeSuite with Windstream SD-WAN to end customers, including SMBs, Crotty said.

"We want partners to go after legacy Windstream, Broadview and EarthLink access customers that don't have OfficeSuite or SD-WAN so they can upsell this value-added combination to their entire base," he said.

Crotty, who previously served as chief operating officer of Broadview Networks, said that the latest solution strengthens both products and gives partners "the entire, consolidated package," as opposed to a standalone SD-WAN or UCaaS product, which makes for a "stickier" solution for partners.

"Customers get an industry-leading UCaaS product that they know how to use with guaranteed availability and uptime," he said. "It really is a winning combination."

The combination also gives partners an end customers a single-source provider of connectivity, UCaaS, and next-generation networking technology, Crotty said.

While Windstream will continue to sell its legacy cloud-based UC products, BroadView's OfficeSuite will become the provider's flagship UCaaS solution for customers up to 2,500 seats.

Broadview employees are now a part of Windstream, and Crotty said that the provider is looking to expand the team to support more agent partners.