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Next Level Starts the New Year Swinging

Next Level Communications is jump-starting the New Year with the addition of three new telecommunications companies to its roster of broadband equipment clients.

The Rohnert Park, Calif.-based firm, which provides integrated broadband platforms for the delivery of voice and data packages, this week announced contracts with KMTelecom of Minnesota, Venus Telephone Corp. of Pennsylvania, and Allendale Telephone Co. of Michigan.

Next Level's three new clients have purchased access equipment for the deployment of broadband services over existing telephone lines, Next Level said. The company's 'Full Service Access Platform' is designed to deliver cable-quality digital television, high-speed Internet and telephone access as a bundled service.

According to Next Level, KMTelecom will use the bundled service equipment to strengthen its service offerings against rival MediaCom.

KMTelecom plans to deploy Next Level's very-high-speed digital subscriber line (VDSL) technology for digital television customers, and a Competitive Local Exchange Carrier (CLEC) for the delivery of integrated digital television service, high-speed Internet and voice services. The initial rollout will only be offered to a small patch of subscribers, the company announced, with plans for a larger deployment in the near future.

Venus Telephone Co. has announced plans to use Next Level equipment to deliver high-speed Internet to several towns in Pennsylvania, and at a later date develop a strategy for the delivery of a bundled broadband service that includes voice, data, and video to a larger swath of customers.

Allendale Telephone Co. will use its new purchase to deliver voice and data services to customers in Allendale, MI, a city of 15,000, the company said.

"More and more telcos are using our equipment to deliver services that were previously impossible, and garner revenues that were previously unavailable to them," said J. Michael Norris, chief executive officer of Next Level Communications.

Next Level was founded in 1994 and currently provides broadband equipment to 113 customers in 38 U.S. states.

According to San Francisco-based RHK Inc., a telecommunications analysis firm, while broadband deployment is still in its early stages, with penetration rates still very low in the U.S. compared to parts of Asia, the true money making potential for broadband services remains relatively untapped.

According to a recent RHK study, broadband penetration rates in 2002 reached 25 percent of total U.S. Internet households, and while overall adoption is still slow, broadband services are growing steadily in the U.S. and other parts of the world.

North America continues to lead the world in broadband deployment, according to RHK, but the continued growth of broadband will not be determined by promoting speed, but rather through new applications.

"Instead of marketing broadband by bandwidth levels, service providers should start marketing and packaging broadband as they do voice," stated Teresa Mastranglo of Broadband Access Networks Global. "This means offering basic packages for simple Internet access and premium packages that include a host of value services."

According to Mastranglo, RHK foresees the greatest and most lucrative potential in broadband applications to be in bundled services with the ability to deliver voice, data and video services.

In keeping with this new market trend, Next Level has recently signed a slew of contracts with telcos looking to expand services into other areas of bundled broadband application deployment.

During the month of December alone Next Level signed Full Service Access Platform equipment contracts with United Telephone co., South Central Rural Telephone Cooperative, Brandenburg Telecom, and 14 Minnesota-based telephone companies including Hutchinson Telephone Co., Hutchinson Telecommunications, Inc., NU Telecom, En-Tel Communications, Sherburne Telephone Co., Hector Communications, Halstad Telephone Co., Halstad Communications, Eckles Telephone Co., WH-Link LLC, and Paul Bunyan Rural Telephone Co.