Bell Canada rethinks RFP process: CTO

The fallout in the telecommunications space has led Bell Canada to draft a new blueprint for working with network equipment vendors, according to its chief technology officer.

During a conference called “”The Future of the Telecom Network”” hosted by BMO Nesbitt Burns Tuesday, Bell CTO Eugene Roman said the incumbent has abandoned the request for proposals (RFPs) commonly used to solicit competitive bids on IT and networking projects. Instead, he said Bell has created a new set of guidelines, which it calls “”request for partners,”” that takes a much closer look at the equipment vendor’s bottom line. Criteria under these neo-RFPs include the amount of research and development a potential partner puts into their operation, Roman said, as well as a detailed evaluation of the partner’s engineering staff.

“”We used to take it for granted that the big companies were always going to be around,”” Roman said. “”There’s a lot of casualties out there.””

Bell staff came up with the request for partners idea last Christmas, Roman said, and has since used the process to source a partner for a middleware project. Bell works with a number of IT firms already. It uses Amdocs for its billing, CGI for its systems and IBM Global Services for maintenance and support.

Despite the economic meltdown in the telecommunications space, which has seen the demise of many competitive local exchange carriers, some experts remain bullish. Tony Yuen, co-director of the Master of Engineering in Telecommunications Program at the University of Toronto and a former vice-chair of Nortel Networks China, said a number of new equipment vendors are on the horizon.

“”Some of these names, you wouldn’t even have heard of,”” Yuen told the conference. “”Like Horizon Networks, I bet nobody’s heard of them, right? But they just got two rounds of funding from Silicon Valley.””

Roman said Bell is open to looking at new players, but that doesn’t mean the company has abandoned relationships with long-standing partners. Though Nortel Networks attracted considerable attention after the precipitous fall of its stock price, Roman said Bell stands behind them. “”The labs are still there, they’re still functioning,”” he said. “”They’ve had to resize them somewhat, but it’s not all based out of Ottawa anymore. And frankly, I think that’s for the good.””

Yuen said Nortel will continue to survive if it can focus on its core competentcy of network product design. “”I think you’re going to be pleasantly surprised to see how Nortel will bounce back. They just have to realize that they’re not a marketing company, as much as they’d like to be.””

Bell is making investments in next-generation technologies like voice-over-IP, but the technology has not necessarily reached maturity. Roman said he received profuse apologies from an equipment vendor who failed to connect a phone call to Dallas after several tries, though it worked eventually. “”It’s like the days of Unix servers. They promised things would get cheaper and maintenance would be easier, and that wasn’t the case,”” he said. “”The IT managers will rip their hair out if the IP isn’t working properly.””

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