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March 1, 2006
By Tara Seals
DEALERS TAKE NOTE: WIRELESS
is becoming an integral part of the WAN sale as mobility continues to become intrinsic to the business environment.
A new study from In-Stat says business-related wireless data service will have an average growth rate of 18 percent per year through 2009. The transformation of telecom spending continues unabated, In-Stat analyst Bryan Van Dussen says. The relentless march toward IP-based networks, the unequivocal adoption of mobile solutions, and the pervasiveness of broadband have changed the face of business networks forever.
The relentless march toward IP-based networks, the unequivocal adoption of mobile solutions, and the pervasiveness of broadband have changed the face of business networks forever.
For partners, that means selling an integrated portfolio of data-networking solutions with wireline and wireless components. Use cases for mobility can range widely, from enabling distance learning for universities to disaster recovery for enterprises. The unifying thread is a need to extend existing infrastructure beyond the wired office environment. Beyond the networking requirements, applications, most of which are vertical-specific, often go handin- hand.
Wireless adds legs to the sale, says Sprint Nextel Corp.s Mark Estill, national channel manager. It embeds you deeper into what the customer is trying to do. You may have put in some T1s, but does the hospital also need wireless connectivity and Treos for physicians to write prescriptions on the fly? Does a distribution company need LBS (location-based-services) to track shipments? Agents and dealers need to think about those kinds of specific needs.
The partner opportunity is in solving complete business problems. Its easy to bundle wireline services together, then build in a wireless component to extend past the premise, says Estill. Then theres security, applications, connecting with partners all these requirements can be laid in after the initial network sale.
Connecting remote offices and workers is the main requirement driving mobility extensions in the WAN. The sale often leads with infrastructure and follows with wireless extensions. Our channels penetrate the smaller enterprise, says Pankaj Asundi, CTO of the enterprise group at Ericsson. They start talking about a PBX, then add on the mobility aspect. Now they want a smart device for voice-related services, and can extend the device to do other things like mobile mail. So the sale goes from a box sale to a solutions sale. This isnt just pulling cable and phones. Add both, then layer on services, such as security, encryption and things of an allencompassing perspective.
Adding a wireless network behind the wired infrastructure has become higher on the priority list for many businesses after a 2005 fraught with natural disasters. To that end, Cingular Wireless launched the Wireless WNA Connectivity Service in January, which will make its EDGE data network available as a backup to existing wireline enterprise access. It will be offered in tandem with wireline parents SBC Communications Inc. and BellSouth Corp, and offered via its Business Alliance channel of VARs and dealers. The service uses an enterprise gateway that sits in the network and automatically routes traffic to cellular in the event of wireline service disruption. The EDGE networks speed, which ranges from 100kbps to 135kbps, can keep critical applications working in case of an outage, the company says.
As for applications, mobile e-mail continues to lead the way, but other, more vertical applications are becoming more common. Verizon Wireless has seen an uptick in field force automation and location-based services in particular. The opportunities are just incredible out there, says Anthony Heyman, vice president of national business distribution at Verizon Wireless. Businesses are looking at how they do business and how they can do it better. There are 3 million small businesses and 3.2 million SMBs, which carry almost half of all the employees in the country. And theyre looking to leverage mobility to drive productivity.
Verizon Wireless kicked off a new channel program at the end of 2005 to tap the wireless data market and is expecting partners to be at the leading edge of bringing the mobility message to SMBs. We are very judicious in picking solutions providers that are more data-centric in focus, because the customers are looking for someone to bring hardware and the applications, and integrate it all, says Heyman. Many companies have been going to the distributors for other things already, like wired telecom, and now its a question of adding in mobility.
Sprint is getting behind the idea of integrating wireline and wireless WAN opportunities with a second-quarter goal of combining the two sides of the house from a partner perspective. The contracts for legacy services will be combined with wireless agreements so the partner gets paid in one check. Solutions specialists have been hired to help wireline partners embrace wireless, and vice versa.
Many companies dont know what theyre trying to do, so a partner needs to ask a lot of questions upfront, says Estill. Wireline partners have a lot to gain; if they can sell something as complex as an IP network, handsets and wireless applications are easy to learn; as long as they stay focused on how they can extend the workplace.
Wireless data will continue to expand, if the analysts are to be believed, and dealer opportunities will continue to deepen. If youre an agent, you have to look past what you know and adopt wireless, says Estill. There are a lot of people making a lot of money, and its not that difficult to learn to sell wireless WAN extensions as some think. Otherwise you are leaving money on the table.
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