Open Range laying off portion of direct sales force

Open Range Communications said it will cut an unspecified number of direct sales representatives from its workforce in an effort to reduce costs.

The company is "exploring more cost effective marketing methods that will result in some layoffs," said David Andersen, an Open Range spokesman. Andersen declined to say how many direct sales reps will be affected, or which markets Open Range will make the cuts in--primarily because the company hasn't yet disclosed the news to all of its affected sales reps. He said many of the affected sales reps will be offered positions in other markets.

Andersen also couldn't disclose what Open Range's "alternative marketing methods" will be. However, as an example, Andersen said Open Range recently inked an agreement with CheckFree Corp. that will allow Open Range subscribers to pay for Open Range services with cash inside Wal-Mart stores. Such an offering will allow Open Range customers to continue to pay for the service with cash in markets where there are no direct sales representatives to complete the transaction.

Clarified Andersen: "We're not walking away from any markets. We're looking for new marketing methods in these markets," he said. "There will be other methods for people to sign up for service that are more cost effective to us."

Though Andersen declined to discuss the extent of Open Range's job cuts, a source indicated they are widespread throughout Open Range's coverage area. For example, the source said Open Range eliminated its entire sales force in one state, and laid off workers in five of the company's eight markets in another state.

Further, the source said Open Range continues to struggle with high rates of churn and a network that cannot support large numbers of subscribers.

Privately held Open Range (a 2009 Fierce 15 winner) operates a WiMAX network in more than 140 markets spanning more than a dozen states. Earlier this year, the company said it counted more than 20,000 subscribers, according to the Denver Business Journal. Open Range in March inked a deal with LightSquared whereby it plans to transition its operations from the spectrum it leases from Globalstar to LightSquared's planned LTE network. However, LightSquared's network rollout has been hampered by concerns regarding how its planned network could interfere with GPS receivers.

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