Two trends are intersecting and spawning a need for managed services. The carriers are in a perfect position to help. But don't look toward your traditional, large carrier. It's the alternative, specialty providers or IP telephony vendors who are trying to capitalize on the need.The growth in branch offices and VoIP are the trends creating this opportunity. Organizations are deploying VoIP to their headquarters' campuses, large branch offices, and in some cases to select smaller branch offices if it\u2019s a new location or in desperate need of upgrade. Many IT executives would like to add VoIP to all of their branch offices, but they don\u2019t have the internal resources to handle the implementation, training, or ongoing management.That\u2019s where the carriers could be providing an in-demand service: Handle the local access (DSL\/cable modem) ordering and installation. Provide hosted VoIP services and applications (unified messaging, audio conferencing) that may or may not tie back into premise-based IP PBXs or servers at headquarters. Monitor and manage the equipment and any problems at the branch offices. Add some mobility integration, so that mobile branch-office workers can extend their desktop IP phone number, features, and interfaces to their wireless phones. And offer compelling service-level agreements.Nemertes recently asked 90 IT executives what they felt the carriers' role should be when it comes to converged services. The results of the open-ended question was a list of 14 items. Branch-office services was fourth on the list, with 14% of the participants explicitly asking for such offerings.Already, 82% of organizations say they're using broadband access. They're buying the business-grade service, so network access constraints generally aren't an issue for branch-office VoIP. (I say \u201cgenerally\u201d because about 15% of locations in organizations with hundreds of branch offices do have some performance issues.)Second-tier carriers, such as Megapath\/Netifice, Masergy, Savvis, and XO, have a huge opportunity to capitalize on VoIP and other converged applications to the branch office. They are more nimble and can develop services more quickly than the large carriers. And, carriers such as Megapath\/Netifice already specialize in branch-office management and service delivery. Major carriers, including AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon, have some VoIP offerings. But, they need to customize them for and market them to the branch-office requirements.\u201cWhere I see carriers coming is with branch offices,\u201d says the vice president\u00a0of network design for a global financial-services firm with more than 2,000 locations. \u201cWhy do I want to make the investment or manage that?\u201d The carriers could win business from large enterprises, but \u201cit depends a lot on the implementation,\u201d he says.\u201dSeveral large enterprise IT executives say they would like to manage their core VoIP infrastructure at the headquarters campus and potentially some of the largest branch-office locations. But they want to partner with a carrier to manage their branch offices and their mobile workers.The major carriers already have lost core IP telephony business to vendors, including Avaya, Cisco, Nortel, 3Com, ShoreTel, and others. This is a nice opportunity for them to get in on the action - while there is still action.Let me know what you think. Would carrier-provided services for the branch office help with your IP telephony implementation? Why or why not? E-mail me at email@example.com.