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Telecom Network Procurement Compromises: Providers vs. Aggregators

Life is full of trade-offs and so is the telecom network design and procurement process. 

While wide area network design pros and cons are more clear cut (i.e., Point to Point vs. MPLS), the provider differences are harder to discern. The options range from utilizing multiple telecom providers, a single telecom provider, or a telecom aggregator, and the choice to work with one over the other comes with many compromises - whether your enterprise is large or small.

In order to satisfy your highest network priorities (i.e. ease of management), you may forsake other priorities (i.e. network diversity).

This post covers the compromises we see companies facing as they choose which network provider path to take: multiple telecom providers, a single telecom provider, or a telecom aggregator. 

Bespoke, Multi-Provider Solutions 

If you want to build a bespoke, multi-provider network, you will trade time and energy for network resilience.  

You can spend tons of time building a very customized and high performance network with multiple carriers. But if you go this route, you are in the position of managing multiple carrier service bills and important contract dates. Managing all of these aspects of your network is a pain, no matter the size of your network - and the more providers and contracts you add to the mix, the more complex it will get.  

Another big issue of working with so many carriers is that if something breaks in your network you don’t know who to call. It is not always evident where the network issue lies, and even if you know the failure point, you might not know which provider backbone it lies on (say if you have two or three circuits at this point in the network). In the event of a network issue - large or small - you likely will be spending more time determining where the failure is and navigating across multiple provider systems to find it. 

The companies that really care about network resilience will go the multi-provider, bespoke network path - but they are trading a ton of time and energy for the ability to have an ultra-resilient network

Single Provider Solutions

Depending on your network needs, you might be able to use a single provider to run all (or the majority) of your network. But if you go this route, you’ll likely be trading ease of management for network resiliency.

Working with a single provider will save you time because now you have just a single point of contact for your network. You have the answer to “who you gonna call” if something in your network breaks. 

On the flip side, this approach increases your exposure to network failures because you’re running all of your traffic over a single provider’s backbone. It will be hard to avoid single points of failure (SPOFs) in your network with this approach. 

You can build network redundancy when working with a single provider, but this means that your primary provider is likely ordering Type 2 transport from another provider, which often leads to unpredictable and lengthy implementations (and probably higher $ costs). In this instance, your traffic is still mapped to a single network AS. Your provider also needs to open tickets with that 3rd party underlying transport provider which is often cumbersome and error prone. 

Telecom Aggregator Solutions

Working with a telecom aggregator or “intermediary” is another option for deploying your telecom network. This option comes at the cost of provider access, reliability and transparency into what you are actually buying.  

A telecom aggregator serves as your “single throat to choke” for your network, so here you’ve solved for point of contact and billing issues discussed with the bespoke multi-provider solutions.  

A telecom aggregator will also provide you with circuits from multiple providers. This suggests that your network should be more resilient than a single-provider network. However, telecom aggregators solutions consist entirely of Type 2 and resold circuits. These types of circuits come with inherent uncertainty because you aren’t dealing with the provider themselves. 

With a telecom aggregator you also sacrifice network transparency and the ability to directly interface with the carrier to troubleshoot your network. When you call your telecom aggregator with a network issue, they will in turn open a ticket with the telecom provider who is actually providing the service - so your network tickets have to go through a phone tree before being solved. 

This model almost always, without exception, comes with higher costs.

Telecom Provider(s) vs.  Aggregators - who wins? 

compromise spongebob

Source: Spongebob :)

The best telecom provider solution is different for every company, and there are a great deal of factors to take into consideration to determine what the best path is for your business. 

The provider–or providers–you choose not only need to be big enough and experienced enough to handle your needs, but also have the ability to grow with you. They need to offer the telecom services you require, but also at the right prices and management flexibility.

To properly weigh your options, you need resources that can help you correctly size up your needs, as well as spot the potential pitfalls ahead. There are telecom agents out there who will claim to be your partner in these decisions, but they won’t always have your best interest at heart. 

Lightyear is designing and procuring networks for our customers on a daily basis - for free - and our software mitigates the disadvantages of multi-provider networks or aggregators while also maintaining a centralized management console. 

If you’d like to speak with one of our experts regarding your next network deployment, please go ahead and schedule a demo here! 

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