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TMCnet Talks to the USNAP Alliance and MegaPath for On the Road Special Series

August 10, 2011

By Laura Stotler, TMCnet Contributing Editor

As part of's special On the Road series in San Jose, CA, the company's editors got to sit down with Barry Haaser, executive director of the USNAP Alliance, and Dan Foster, president of MegaPath. Erik Linask, group editorial director at TMC (News - Alert), discussed the USNAP Alliance's goals for the smart grid product market.

The USNAP Alliance is a collaboration of manufacturers and utilities that have come together to create a standard for smart grid products. According to Haaser, the group felt that in order for the market to truly develop as an industry, technology would need to evolve, and an internationally recognized standard is an important part of that market propulsion.

The goal of the standard is to enable consumer products to connect to any type of home area network, regardless of the interface. Haaser said that the most common interfaces today include WiFi, as well as ZigBee and Z-Wave, which are popular with utility companies. Some are also using FM RDS band, known for displaying radio song titles, as well as power line technologies. The USNAP specification enables manufacturers to add an interface to their products to connect with any combination of those network interfaces, creating a mix of service provider and user choice.

"My belief is that we'll see a mix of networks," said Haaser. "We'll see a mix of WiFi, of Z-Wave and ZigBee together, just like we see in professional data networks today." He added that the group believes it is important to have a specification that has been published by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), which is in the process of finalizing the USNAP specification to hand off to a standards development organization.

The group's goal is to become an international standard, enabling companies, utilities and government agencies to feel confident in using a proven, solid technology standard. While some USNAP enabled products are already available, Haaser said a whole wave of smart grid products will be available to consumers next year. Home Depot currently sells a thermostat with a WiFi module, and an interface to connect to a smart meter will be added in the future.

"We know that consumers have an appetite for energy efficiency," said Haaser. He added that more thermostats and energy gateways will begin to come on the market next year as consumers and manufacturers learn more about smart grids. Smart meters are currently installed in about five million homes in California, and there are also offerings that allow consumers to clamp a device to the main line into their home to read energy usage and better manage it.

Haaser believes the mass market for energy management will emerge as changes in the regulatory environment occur, causing utility pricing to fluctuate dynamically and offering an incentive for consumers to change their usage behavior.

In another On the Road special interview, Carl Ford, a TMCnet columnist and partner at CrossFire Media, spoke to Dan Foster at MegaPath about changes in the company. MegaPath recently purchased Speakeasy and Covad (News - Alert), and the combined company is now charged with serving the same market segments as the separate companies.

According to Foster, the integration of the three entities will be complete by the end of the year. Covad was focused on wholesale business, from carriers down to resellers, while MegaPath was traditionally more enterprise related, with a decent-sized SMB base. Speakeasy (News - Alert) focused on hosted services and the SMB segment.

Foster said the combined company has a very strong carrier and wholesale division as well as an emphasis on direct business through channel partners (TMC is a MegaPath channel partner). He added that the company's ideal channel partner is a business with a close customer relationship.

"It's an interesting part in the history of the channel right now because you've got consolidation," said Foster. "You've got folks who are going from being almost pure agents if you will to solution providers." He said the company is building out a new partner program and portal, and all portals will be delivered through smartphones.

The company is also focusing on building out Ethernet over copper, and according to several vendors bidding on the project, MegaPath will have the largest Ethernet over copper buildout in the US. The company is also focusing on its hosted cloud offerings, which are extremely popular and picking up traction with channel partners. He added that the buzz around the cloud market at present is interesting, considering MegaPath's long history in the space.

"We've actually been doing that since '06 or soon both the hosted voice and the security," said Foster. He said the company partners with Cisco and Polycom for IP phones, with a number of large endpoint partners including Cisco, ADTRAN and Fortinet (News - Alert). Business is booming in the retail and distributed enterprise space, with customers ranging from firms like Edward B. Jones to the Family Dollar chain of retail stores.

MegaPath is a GOLD sponsor of ITEXPO West 2011. To be held Sept. 13-15 in Austin, TX, ITEXPO (News - Alert) is the world’s premier IP communications event. Visit MegaPath in booth 1020. Don’t wait. Register now.   Stay in touch with everything happening at ITEXPO… follow us on Twitter.

Edited by Rich Steeves


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