SAN MATEO (03/27/2000) - When a large corporation hit the Simplexity.com Web site two weeks ago for a price quote on one million minutes of traffic, executives at the Internet start-up realized that an online telecom marketplace may not be limited to small business.
"It signaled a clear opportunity for us to move upstream," said Larry Andreini, director of marketing at Reston, Va.-based Simplexity.
The company is among a pack of Web companies, including Discountcall.com and Bandwidth .com, acting as matchmaker between heavyweight carriers such as AT&T, MCI WorldCom, and business telecom buyers.
Simplexity allows users to hunt for telecom deals in two ways. First, customers can quickly compare carrier rates for prescribed services. "Or they can go to the customized bid section and have carriers bid on an anonymous RFP [request for proposal] sent to them," Andreini said.
Atlanta-based Discountcall's site works slightly differently. "We are not a quoting system, where we put up requirements for bids. We think that takes too long," said President and CEO Randy Berlin. Discountcall is readying an interactive function to let users input more customized telecom needs to get quotes instantly.
But for most corporate enterprises with hordes of networking staff, using a Web site to outfit an office with T1s may not be realistic in the near term.
"In my opinion this marketplace is not yet mature enough," said Goutham Surapaneni, chief of technology operations at Farmington Hills, Mich.-based CBSI (Complete Business Solutions, Inc.).
Amanda McCarthy, an analyst at Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research agreed. "The telecom marketplace is really for small to midsize businesses that are forced to outsource or have never had an IT staff that could take advantage of data services," she said.
Simplexity.com's Andreini argues that corporations are interested, but want to use the site differently. "There have been probably dozens, not hundreds certainly, but enough to show us a trend, that the large companies will not necessarily do an entire transaction online, but will submit their initial requirements to carriers online," he said.
Doing so can save the hard sells.
Online telecom deals
Players are eyeing bigger accounts.
* Web sites carry services from providers such as AT&T, MCI WorldCom, Sprint, Cable & Wireless, Global Crossing, and Talk.com* Services available include voice and wireless plans, Internet service, DSL, and Web hosting* Site operators may add Virtual Private Networking services