The Desjardins Group Tuesday said it had extended its service agreement with Bell Canada until the end of 2014 for $670 million.

The new agreement will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2007, picking up from an earlier contract which began in 2001.

Through the contract, Bell will continue to provide the Montreal-based financial institution with communication, call centre and payment services. In the coming years, Bell plans to extend its IP network across Quebec, providing advanced network service to more Desjardins locations.

Offices in rural areas may currently be off the map, as far as Bell’s IP infrastructure is concerned, said Stéphane Boisvert, the president of Bell Canada’s enterprise group. By building out its network, these branches – some of which rely on plain old telephone service (POTS) – could also take advantage of services and applications available to branches already on the network.

“This is what we’re doing for the next couple of years. It’s beyond legacy connectivity, which was kind of the start in 2001,” said Boisvert.

Desjardins spokesman André Chapleau said the financial institution was pleased with the service it had received from Bell to date, and talks of a contract extension began more than a year ago.

“They’re very aware of our needs, they’re very aware of our reality. There’s good chemistry. If it ain’t broke, why fix it?” he said. “Starting over again with a new provider would have been tough.”

Recently Bell furnished the institution’s case management call centre with a complete internal IP network – a first for Bell, said Chapleau.

“Bell has really been responsive and helpful in providing telecom services,” he said. “Technology evolves very rapidly. It necessitates a good provider.”

Chapleau also said that Desjardins and Bell had worked together prior to 2001, although in a smaller capacity and for different types of contracts.

Bell and its main rival Telus have engaged in a turf war, attempting to win business in each others backyards. Last week, for example, Telus announced a major contract win with the Government of Ontario.

But old habits die hard. Elroy Jopling, a telecommunications analyst with Gartner Canada, said it’s common for large enterprises to stay with an established provider like Bell, particularly if they’ve fostered a relationship over a period of years.

“The incumbents will always have their protected accounts,” said Jopling. “Enterprises will always have a tendency to stay with their suppliers.”

According to Boisvert, Bell and Desjardins could become more intertwined, with Bell adding data hosting and recovery to its list of services, but nothing has been finalized as yet.


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