CenturyLink Unveils Business Wi-Fi For SMBs, Bundles Networking And Cisco Meraki Wireless Technology

CenturyLink is in hot pursuit of small-business customers. The telecom service provider Tuesday unveiled a cloud-managed Wi-Fi offering that combines its networking expertise with Cisco Meraki's Wi-Fi technology, aimed at customers with up to 250 employees.

"The newest Wi-Fi solution fits with CenturyLink's strategy of being a managed service provider in that SMB space," said Shane Stark, director of vendor and channel relations for Carrier Access, a solution provider and CenturyLink Premier partner.

CenturyLink Business Wi-Fi for SMBs bundles Cisco Meraki's cloud-managed Wi-Fi offering with real-time monitoring and analytics – a full-fledged wireless offering from one provider, according to CenturyLink. The offering includes Cisco Meraki access points and software licenses, as well as access to Meraki's cloud-based dashboard and 24/7 operational support.

[Related: CenturyLink Bundles Network, Management, SD-WAN Platform In New Hybrid SD-WAN Service]

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CenturyLink Business Wi-Fi is available through Alliance partner program members immediately, according to the provider.

Research firm IDC expects the business-class, cloud-managed Wi-Fi market to grow exponentially to $3.3 billion by 2020, tripling the 2015 market and revealing a large market opportunity for solution providers.

The latest offering gives CenturyLink Channel Alliance partners a secure, cost-effective and enterprise-grade Wi-Fi offering that is simple to deploy and manage for SMBs, John DeLozier, CenturyLink's vice president of channel alliances, told CRN.

"With CenturyLink Business Wi-Fi, organizations can not only provide an improved experience for their employees and customers, they can leverage client- and location-based analytics to learn more about their customers and more effectively engage with them,’ DeLozier added.

The latest offering does compete with MSPs to a certain extent because many MSPs, like Clive, Iowa-based Carrier Access, are selling access points today, Stark said. On the other hand, bundling networking functions with Cisco Meraki Wi-Fi technology is helpful for CenturyLink partners who have had to cobble together and deploy these solutions for their small-business customers in the past, he said.

"From the MSP standpoint, it could be viewed as competition, but from the telecom agent perspective, it’s a huge advantage. Especially for partners looking to get into the MSP space," he said. "For [Carrier Access] in areas where we don't have feet on the street, it will be a big advantage."

The CenturyLink Business Wi-Fi bundled solution also gives SMBs access to Cisco Meraki Wi-Fi technology, a product set that historically hasn't been a cost-effective option for many smaller businesses, Stark said.

Monroe, La.-based CenturyLink has been sharpening its focus on the SMB space with the introduction of more managed networking bundles. The company in August unveiled its plug-and-play Business VoIP solution for small-business customers, a fully featured phone service for a flat monthly rate. In July, the provider rolled out a managed hybrid SD-WAN offering and in Junet introduced its Cisco Meraki Management solution for partners and business customers.