But channel seeks revamped programs, new pricing structures
Telecom carriers are expected to use the wireless industry's largest trade show to tout their next-generation networks, but solution providers are wondering if they will hear the right message.
The Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association Wireless 2002 conference, held here this week, will focus on 2.5G networks, which promise faster, IP-based data transfers and improved voice capabilities.
While generally enthusiastic about the opportunities these new networks provide their customers, solution providers complain that wireless carriers' channel programs need to provide better resources and new pricing structures.
"What's missing is a lack of a true, supportive channel program," said one veteran mobile market executive who requested anonymity. "We need dedicated resources, dedicated people,not an adversary-oriented plan where we are competing against the direct sales force."
Although most wireless carriers claim to be in heavy recruitment mode, mobile guru Mike Freeman, vice president of mobile at Sarcom, said the Lewis Center, Ohio-based company has yet to hear from them.
"I haven't had anyone knocking on my door and showing me this stuff, and I've been asking," he said.
Freeman points out that Sarcom has so much customer interest in mobile solutions that he has sales appointments backlogged by more than three weeks.
Pricing plans are also a bone of contention with solution providers. Dan Elliott, vice president of mobile service at CompuCom, Dallas, said wireless carriers should be looking at an "all-you-can-eat" pricing scheme.
"They have to separate data from voice, bill for data and allow for that always-on experience," Elliott said.
Carrier executives that run the channel programs said they were surprised by solution providers' acrimony, adding that solid processes for partners are already in place. Many carriers offer self-provisioning capabilities for solution providers as well as sales and technical support, they said.
Valerie Kahn, vice president of enterprise business development at AT&T Wireless, Redmond, Wash., said the carrier is beefing up recruitment efforts via its Web site. It's also working to help potential partners through the education phase to certify them, she said.
"We are taking an aggressive stance to get all of our partners ready [for the new network," Kahn said.