Enabling Communications Evolution
Business View Magazine profiles KGP Companies, providers of communications equipment and network services solutions to the communications industry.
“Generally, I would say that communication network evolution is our DNA and we work to stay ahead of technology shifts,” says Matt Glass, Chief Operating Officer of BlueStream Professional Services, which, along with its sister brand, KGP Logistics, comprise the KGP Companies, one of the country’s largest single-source, value-added providers of communications equipment, supply chain services, and integrated network services solutions to the communications industry.
Originally founded by Kathleen G. Putrah in 1973, as Great Lakes Telephone Supply, today KGP Logistics, a woman-owned business enterprise, based in Faribault, Minnesota, offers roughly 25,000 voice, data, video, and wireless products from over 1,500 suppliers, from its distribution centers in Allentown, PA, Grand Prairie, TX, New Century, KS, Ontario, CA, Portland, OR, Suwanee, GA, and Warsaw, IN. BlueStream Professional Services provides planning, implementation, engineering, installation, project management, deployment, and maintenance support from its 35 engineering and integration centers located strategically across the country. In all, KGP has over 3,000 employees.
According to Glass, KGP Companies has five business units contained within the KGP Logistics and BlueStream brands. BlueStream, the network services solutions organization, concentrates on both wireline communications and wireless networks: the legacy wireline or longstanding copper network; and the newer RAN, or radio access network, which connects devices such as mobile phones to communication towers. “We are enhancing legacy networks structurally through the addition of fiber optic cable as well as enabling the software-defined layer of the network in data centers and central offices,” he explains. “On the access network, or mobility side, we have been serving network operators to transform evolving 3rd generation networks to the recent 4G LTE network, and we will continue to be relevant in Project Management, Site Acquisition, Civil Design, and Construction/Installation as the 5G needs develop. In addition to network expansion and enhancements, we are also working to densify our customers’ networks as device applications require more data usage, and network densification is a priority in handling end user applications at higher speeds. I believe, in addition to ongoing macro cell depth and expansion, we’ll also see more emphasis on small cells to accommodate network densification needs.”
“Traditional network silos are merging,” Glass continues. “This is efficient for us in that all of our network solutions are working together to satisfy the constant push for data capacity and speed requirements. Our all-in service outcome is dense wireless networks powered by high-speed, fiber optic cable utilizing a software layer, enabling application innovation, speed, and network efficiency.”
“We have transformed and enhanced our legacy wireline inside-plant workforce to maintain relevancy through the nuances of the software-defined infrastructure. We have also evolved our legacy outside- plant business in alignment with the growth in fiber optics,” adds Paul Schultz, Vice President of Data Center, Cloud & Infrastructure. “We’ve also sharpened our KGP Logistics focus within the three business units of this organization. We have a product distribution business, mainly focused in the Telco market space. Then, we have advanced, supply chain services which are direct-to-site models, material aggregation, and deployment models – forward logistics, reverse logistics, all the advanced services where we would potentially take over and manage a customer’s supply chain through the lifecycle of their product or project durations. And the third business unit is our integration unit that takes multi-vendor product sets, combines them together into a single unit that is shipped to site fully configured, parameters-loaded, and ready to be turned up, onsite.”
Among its many product offerings, KGP also builds and deploys DSLAMs, or Digital Subscriber Line Access Multiplexers – network devices that receive signals from multiple customers’ DSL, or Digital Subscriber Line connections, and then put the signals on a high-speed backbone line using multiplexing techniques. “We build DSLAM cabinets and deploy them out at a curb or in front of a neighborhood or business for high-speed access,” says Schultz. “We build those cabinets for the traditional copper network and we build passive, optical cabinets for next-gen optical networks. We also build and configure SDN-enabled boxes or racks. Think: computer servers, storage servers, network switches, all configured and combined into a rack and shipped to site for installation and enabling the SDN and networks of the future.”
Both Glass and Schultz believe that the KGP Companies stand alone in the marketplace. “What we do in our several business units is unique,” says Glass. “Companies with a very strong brand in logistics, coupled with a very strong brand in services are truly unique in telecommunications. I don’t know of a company that has the ability to impact the network lifecycle as broadly or efficiently as KGP Companies. Include our 40 years of telecom experience, and intellect, and an obsession with continued technology expertise; our legacy is validation of our ability to excel in the industry.” Schultz agrees: “If you look at the two components of our company – it’s scale and capability. You may find a distributor with scale similar to ours, but they won’t have the services component; or you may find a services company similar to ours, but they won’t have the distribution component – not at the national level; not at the scale that we’re at. There may be some small, regional companies, but if you’re talking Tier One and Tier Two Telcos – there’s nobody that does what we do.”
With its 40-year history behind it, and some business relationships that go back that far, Glass says that KGP still gets a lot of its clients via word-of-mouth. “We’re known for our quality, and that’s how we get passed along,” he maintains. The company also participates in industry trade shows, and has lately been increasing its online presence as well. “We’ve made a push to become more active in social media in staying nuanced and relevant,” he adds. “However, we are careful not to distract from strong face-to-face customer relationships, which is paramount with our founders and a big part of our legacy.”
As a company that focuses on network transformation, Glass points out that staying ahead of the curve is a constant challenge. “I’m not sure what the Internet of Things will mean to the network,” he admits. “In five years, I expect we’ll be talking about a whole different world of connected devices and figuring out how the network will manage the traffic. Software is leading this transformation of network applications and additional connected things; however this is predicated upon how robust the network is that carries the data.” What is certain, he stresses, is that the legacy copper networks will not be able to support the 50 billion or more devices that the world will soon have.
“As you look at migrating off of your legacy networks onto the new software-defined networks, companies have a significant asset base that they have to figure out what to do with,” says Schultz. “They use a significant amount of power; they use a lot of real estate. And they’re not getting the return that they need from those assets. So, a company like KGP has the ability to help customers migrate off of their legacy assets onto the next gen networks. And that’s a skill set that’s going to be in very high demand over the next five years as the software-defined networks roll out. Also, we are in the process of building the next gen optical networks for carriers to be able to support the tremendous increase in bandwidth requirements over the next five to ten years.”
“True Telco SDN is in its infancy,” he continues. “We’ve got start-ups that are popping up; companies that nobody’s ever heard of. They’re forming niches, developing niche applications. More than likely, as those applications get utilized, those companies will get bought by larger aggregators. Think back to Cisco in the 90s. Anytime somebody came up with a faster box, Cisco went and bought them and then enabled that technology into their products. We’re going to see the same thing in the software-defined side.
“Over the next two years, we’re going to spend a lot of time building the core of the software-defined network. After that, we will spend years enhancing and pushing the edge of the network. Traditionally, the edge would be a remote hub out in front of a subdivision that would be serving that subdivision. In the new world, that edge piece could be in an end-customer’s residence; it could be at a business; it could be at a gas station down the street; it will be at the bottom of a cell tower. So, we’re going to see an intelligent network built out, closer and closer to the people who are using the data, and the connectivity will be there, as well as applications and content.” “Certainly, we could see more software defined, cloud-type assets moving out to the edge,” Glass adds.
With a 40-year legacy and a diverse customer base, KGP Companies brings a powerful value proposition focused on delivering advanced supply chain and distribution, solutions-based project management, network engineering, installation, and software integration services. KGP Companies is poised and equipped to ride that leading edge of telecommunications connectivity to wherever it may lead in the years to come.
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AT A GLANCE
WHO: KGP Companies
WHAT: A providers of communications equipment and network services solutions to the communications industry.
WHERE: Faribault, MN and New Century, KS