Request Broadband chases direct dollar

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Request Broadband has signed a direct channel to push its voice over DSL (VoDSL) packages, citing a desire for strong customer relationships in the PABX space which its established wholesale partners could not provide.

Garry McCarten, general manager of the broadband provider's four-month-old direct sales and service arm -- Request Business Solutions -- said the company would sign 11 mainly retail partners by the end of this year. It expects to have more than 20 in total early next year.

“We have an existing wholesale channel and at the moment they all focus on the IT side of the world and so far none of them have implemented this product as a retail product,” he said.

McCarten said the direct channel arm was deployed as additional artillery and would not cannibalise resources from Request's indirect partners. Seven new staff would be deployed to serve the direct dealer network, headed by dealer managers Steve Andrews in Melbourne and Mark Rook in Sydney.

Broadband provision had several killer applications, McCarten said, including voice. But to sell its Request Voice Over Broadband bundle meant harnessing service providers specialising in key systems, PABXs or business mobile phones sales and service.

“This is an additional market for Request. Our focus so far has been high-quality internet services, and that's getting quite tough now because of prices and competition and so on. And we're also focusing quite strongly on VPNs,” he said.

McCarten said Request would also target smaller system integrators and IT services providers to offer bundled voice and high-speed internet services. “Request Business offers those dealers a 'virtual broadband voice and data' service delivery capability,” he said.

Dealers were sought to serve Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane but not yet in Perth, because the VoDSL product must use Request's own exchanges, he said.

Request was rolling out more exchanges of its own. Thirteen would be deployed in December or January. A total of 150 –- excluding those Request shared with Telstra –- were expected by June 2004, he said.

“We can't do VoDSL over Telstra's ADSL network -– you want symmetric DSL,” he said. “Telstra's network is all about heavily congested, low-price internet.”

McCarten said bundled voice-and-data packages could save 25 percent of the average customer's telephone bill. Request would also include network-based free virus blocking and intrusion detection as part of the RequestProtect package.

“No one, to our knowledge, does it for web traffic, but we're doing it for any email coming to customers and doing it for web traffic,' he said.

Request also promised that helpdesk operators would answer support calls within one minute no matter what the hour, McCarten said.

Dealers would get either a trailing commission that was a percent of a customer's combined phone and data services or an upfront sales commission with smaller trailing commission, McCarten said.

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