Most companies are finally over the hump of migrating from legacy wide area network (WAN) technologies like ATM and Frame Relay to more contemporary MPLS networks. For many, the pain of moving in terms of the cost, resources, effort, and disruption may still be subsiding. Others have been on MPLS for quite some time, but both camps are falling into the trap of becoming too heavily embedded with their carrier and its network which is compromising their leverage to obtain a good, competitive deal. Why? Well, if a company just moved from a legacy network to MPLS, they're not even going to consider moving to another carrier at the end of their three year deal, which results in a minimum of 6 years with the same carrier before a change will be entertained. Those companies that may have moved 6+ years ago are now heavily embedded with their carriers, layering complex fiber builds, SIP, native connections to third party services, firewall in the cloud, and more into their network. In both cases, the organization has stifled its ability to understand what's going on in the market and to capitalize on the opportunities it brings. Most of all, though, companies struggle to develop a time line and change management plan that will allow them to go to market with an RFP and actually make changes or negotiate competitive deals with their incumbent carriers. The biggest mistake you can make while trying to get a competitive deal for network services is waiting until your agreement has expired or is about to expire.

So when should you start? Depending on the complexity and scale of the services you're organization is using, it will typically range from 12 to 18 months out from the end of the contract. There are a few reasons for this. One is that if you negotiated a good contract last time around, you will likely have some flexibility to begin moving services prior to the end of your three year term. The sooner the better. The other is that you will lose an enormous amount of leverage as soon as your incumbent carrier knows you can't get your services migrated prior to the end of your term. You may be asking why this is a problem, you know you negotiated a month to month clause into your current agreement upon expiration and so you won't have any interruptions when your term lapses, right? Not necessarily. If your carrier sees or hears you're moving away from them, they'll usually be able to drop your discounts or disconnect services upon 30 days' notice. And with many carriers providing services with 50%-90%+ discounts, that's a pretty big risk. So the key is to start early. It takes time to organize an internal team, compile the data necessary to develop an RFP, conduct the RFP process, make network design decisions, contract, and to move services, if you actually decide to make a change. And if you don't decide to make a change, you at least have left yourself with the option to move if your incumbent doesn't come to the table in a satisfactory way.

In a follow up article, I'll write a bit more about what you can do to maximize your leverage if the 12 to 18 month window has passed. In the meantime, if you need help getting the best possible deal for your wireline voice and data services, contact Source One Management Services, LLC at
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David Pastore

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