Friday, May 2, 2008

XO Communications

XO Communications, formerly NextLink, is the largest Competitive Local Exchange Carrier (CLEC) in the United States. Led by Chairman/CEO Carl J. Grivner, the company is based out of Reston, VA. It currently (2007) has 4400 employees and is owned by XO Holdings, Inc. XO Communications, a provider of telecommunications services to businesses and other telecom carriers. XO Communications purchased and merged with Allegiance Telecom in 2004.

XO Communications offers local and long-distance voice, dedicated Internet access, private networking, data transport, and managed services such as Web hosting and bundled voice and data services. They operate a nationwide OC-192 IP network and currently carry more than 15 billion minutes of VoIP traffic across its network each year. The OC-192 IP backbone of XO’s network uplinks with OC-12 lines in their markets and data centers to have “one of the highest capacity and scalable IP backbones in the industry, along with the highest levels of performance and reliability.” (

XO’s Dedicated Internet Access (DIA) SLA guarantees 100% network availability. They also guarantee a latency is 65ms, a maximum of 1% packet loss per month, and a maximum of 1ms of network jitter delay per month. If any of these guarantees are not met, they promise one-day credit for each day the SLA was violated.

XO’s network is good. XO’s website also provides a list of diagnostic tools (like a Ping Test and Bandwidth Meter) so that you can monitor your service. Technical support is also great. If you call for tech help, a highly qualified technician usually answers the phone immediately and can sometimes fix a problem on the spot. XO’s T1 division handles installation and T1 support somewhat successfully, but what is up with their colocation division?

XO’s colocation division is not prepared to handle customers. Colocation has no 24 hour staff and they charge a 4 hour minimum at $225/hr with an unreliable dispatch, which usually never shows up. There have been provisioning nightmares where customer routers have failed and it would take 3 weeks for XO to fix them. If your colocation is down, it is not unusual to expect your entire network to be down for 1-2 DAYS – unacceptable by any means as industry average for this kind of service is 4 hours at most! Their staff fails at competence and installs the wrong services, then their billing department bills incorrectly for it.

Their billing has been known to be very poor. They’ve billed wrong and sometimes double bill customers. They suspend accounts immediately if they lapse and make you wait 24 hours to get your entire network back up. That’s right. They suspend your service for a day if they bill you wrong, many times without warning. XO lacks account receivable and incorrect bills are a nightmare to correct. XO offers new customers a no-risk satisfaction guarantee on standard products and services for the first three months after installation. One has to wonder how many times this guarantee has been taken advantage of.

Moreover, they DO NOT HAVE CUSTOMER SERVICE FOR SALES AGENT CUSTOMERS. It’s not that it’s poor, it doesn’t exist, literally. They only have tech support and horrendous billing. There is no one to complain to, except your sales representative. Their data center staff is only staffed 9AM-5PM EST, which defeats the purpose of a mission critical 24/7 facility. You will be charged $400 for a reboot or for a dispatch which is 4 hours minimum after 5. They do have 24/7 telephone support for help with dedicated access, though. You are routed to a high level tech, not some dummy who has to "escalate" you so if you find the right person your issue can sometimes be fixed very fast. That said, if you find the wrong person you can end up down for three weeks.

XO has a decent network with a good tech support to go with it, but they lack customer service for certain services and come with an atrocious billing department. Billing can be split into two or three billing system so this means you will end up with multiple invoices for one order. And some invoices you cannot pay online, they are by mail or phone only. So if you like to pay online you will be making phone calls as well every month. The sales staff is very good, though. Unlike most other companies, their sales reps don’t just make a sell to you, collect the commission and never call you again. XO’s sales staff does a pretty darn good job at staying in contact with you, but they still don’t replace a fully functional customer service department. Prices vary depending on your area, but generally they’ve been known to have excellent prices. For exact quotes, you’ll have to contact XO Communications for a quote in your area.

The Good: A good network with excellent prices. Some of the sales staff is very good along with a great technical support. Outstanding, well-conceived, web-based online controls and applications to improve customer experience - other ISPs should really learn from XO.

The Bad: Billing and billing service is downright awful. The lack of customer service does not help and a network critical company may lose a lot of money during downtimes, which are also common. XO, formerly Nextlink was once a premier company, but Carl Icahn has pretty much screwed that one up. XO is trying to make a come back but it might take a longtime, let's hope they don't run out of cash.

The Bottom Line: We won’t tell you to avoid them altogether, but if your company relies on a working service to maintain revenue then XO Communications may not be the choice best suited for you. Even though they do have a fine network, exceptional prices and great technical service, billing may be a huge headache accompanied by crucial downtimes. Tech repairs can be tiresome and take a very long time as well. XO is completely unreliable if you intend on anything mission critical.