Broadband Services Fills Gap with Com21

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Com21 Inc. hired telecom equipment supply chain management and fulfillment firm Broadband Services Inc. to sell its entire line of equipment to U.S. cable operators, starting in the fourth quarter of this year.

Worth roughly $40 million, BBS and its sales force of 50 people will distribute Com21's cable modems, cable-modem termination systems and other high-speed-access gear. About 60 percent of that sum will be used to supply tier-two and tier-three operators, with the rest going to top MSOs.

Com21 said the deal will enable it to reach a greater number of smaller cable operators and deliver equipment more expeditiously.

"This is a natural fit for Com21, because BBS brings us 50 more sets of feet on the street and six regional warehouses around the U.S.," Com21 vice president of North American sales Michael Misheff said.

In turn, Com21 serves as a missing link for Broadband Services, an outsourcing company that collaborates with cable operators on network rebuilds and upgrades, and supplies them with broadband equipment. For example, the company inked a deal earlier this year to help facilitate and manage Charter Communications Inc.'s massive upgrade, which involves 150,000 miles of cable plant.

Companies such as WorldBridge, acquired by C-COR.net Corp. earlier this year, also play in the same supply chain/network build-out management sphere.

"Com21 fits into our master plan for 2001 and beyond," Broadband Services vice president of emerging technology Bruce Hofmann said. "We were looking for a cable modem partner, and we interviewed every DOCSIS (Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification) manufacturer.

"If cable operators have already upgraded their plan, they'll need the technology on the other ends (of the network)."

Hofmann said Broadband Services would typically maintain an inventory of Com21's equipment and dole out three or 3,000 units at a time, depending on the needs of the operator-large, medium or small.

Because Broadband Services has partnerships with several cable operators, they're getting a discounted price on equipment akin to a tier-one cable operator, Misheff said.

"It helps us because of the additional volume we'll be able to push out to the cable operators that we haven't been able to get to," he added, noting that Com21's current North American sales crew consists of nine execs.

Misheff said Com21's work with Broadband Services would ensure that his company understands small operators' business and provides the same level of service it affords large MSOs.

In addition to Com21's existing line of equipment, Broadband Services might also distribute the company's new-generation products such as its DOCSIS 1.0- certified, USB-enabled "DOXport 1110" cable modem and its "Office Cable Modem" offspring.

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