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The convergence of the IT VAR and telecom agent channels was a channel debate for years, but thanks to the embrace of cloud and the service-centric delivery model, it's no longer just possible but now inevitable. Both VARs and agents are turning to major telecom providers that can promote--not hinder--the progress of these relationships. And whether it's longtime CLECs or hosting providers or cable companies making a run at the business connectivity channel for the first time, master agents have proven instrumental in driving those connections. While this list is by no means intended as a complete catalog of telecom, cloud and channel offerings, these are the companies and the programs that stand out in this still-evolving space and made their case in the Partner Program Guide applications we received.
8x8's Business Partner Program has grown by leaps and bounds following its 2011 revamp and 8x8's expanded cloud services portfolio. Partner recruitment has increased tenfold as 8x8 broad- ens its appeal for PBX resellers, MSPs, telecom agents and video providers interested in up-front bounty and recurring revenue channel compensation plans.
ACC has garnered consistently high praise for its ACC Agent Program, which offers commissions and a host of other incentives for agent partners selling everything from MIS and private line to local and long-distance voice, powered by AT&T's network.
AccessOne primarily serves the Chicago area with data and Internet, voice solutions, and data center, private networking and managed IT offerings. Agent partners are eligible for quarterly bonuses in addition to regular support and commission plans.
Fixed-wireless voice and data providerAirband reported growth in channel program sales of more than 100 percent from 2011 to 2012. It also just upgraded its core network by investing in next-gen radio, national backhaul circuit and high-capacity network equipment.
The managed network services ace just launched the second ver- sion of AirePBX, its cloud-based IP PBX system that now offers everything from HD voice and the ability to swap devices midcall to advanced call routing and session border control. Partners also can offer AirePBX or any of the company's voice and data prod- ucts over its MPLS Mesh network for private data MPLS needs.
Partners were concerned that when Alteva was acquired by War- wick Valley Telephone Company in July 2011, they would see less emphasis from the channel-friendly company. But Alteva has con- tinued to deliver, including a new program through which Alteva is bundling hosted UC solutions for SMB customers.
AT&T needs no introduction to partners. Far below all the sturm and drang of its attempt to acquire T-Mobile USA, however, AT&T is making some interesting channel moves, including the August launch of a mobile device management solution targeted at SMBs.
The SIPTrex-PlatformVAR Partner Program offers opportunities to realize revenue around the BandTel Free PBX Program, including sales ofVoIP systems, hardware installation,VoIP LAN installation, service contracting and monthly recurring usage revenue.
BCN has a much-lauded agent program and has continued to build its channel while expanding its various business lines. Of late, BCN expanded its Ethernet and fiber coaxial cable services through partnerships with Charter,TimeWarner and Comcast.
BRITISH TELECOM (BT)
BT this year mounted a U.S. channel blitz, confident it can double its SMB conferencing channel revenue among U.S. cus- tomers over the next three years. BT has had a program here for several years, but an infusion of resources from BT corporate will help it expand.
BROAD SKY NETWORKS
The wireless broadband, satellite broadband and terrestrial broad- band specialist markets to partners that can specialize in those arenas, from 4G WiMax to hosted VoIP. Resellers are responsible for billing, collections and Tier 1 and 2 technical support.
Broadview's had better years, and in late August filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, including a "pre-packaged" restructuring plan. But the CLEC, which recently upgraded its cloud-based telephony system, OfficeSuite, says the corporate turmoil won't impact customers and channel partners.
Broadvox's VAR Partner Program offers residual revenue to VARs, master agents, telecom agents, systems integrators and OEM partners at various levels of IP and VoIP opportunities. Its many routes to market include Cypress, which it acquired in 2010 and focuses on UC-as-a-Service.
In addition to expanding its channel management team, BullsEye Telecom recently updated its agent agreement to make chan- nel terms simpler and more concise. Among new options are a residual payout, a one-time, up-front payment, or a combination of the two.
Cablevision and its Optimum brand offer phone and high-speed connectivity services to businesses, including SIP trunks. The Optimum Business Partner Program offers both one-time and monthly residual commissions to agent partners.
Cbeyond offers a number of channel partnership programs, including programs for consultants, systems integrators, VARs and interconnects, as well as PBX manufacturers that want to integrate with the company's BeyondVoice with SIPconnect offering. Thanks to a dedicated IP connection, Cbeyond still promises five-nines availability for its VoIP service and offers dedicated broadband and cloud services.
One of telecom's biggest wheels, CenturyLink has solidified its partner programs following its epic acquisition of Qwest Com- munications.The company also has invested in programs for cloud services business units such as Savvis, which unveiled a cloud ecosystem program.
Like its cable company brethren, Charter now offers a competitive set of channel incentives for both agents and solution providers. The Agent Referral Program nets up to $5,000 per referral, while Charter's Business Channel Partner Program creates monthly recurring revenue streams.
Networking king Cisco is still better known for its traditional networking and voice channels, but its HCS offering--as well as its SaaS-based WebEx platform and how that integrates VoIP services--makes it more relevant than ever to the business con- nectivity space.
Cologix, which operates in 11 network-neutral data centers, has been doubling down on the channel of late to broaden the reach of its North America co-location services. Among major recent moves was the signing of Stackpop, a B2B marketplace for Internet infrastructure, to offer Cologix's various services to customers.
No other cable company has been more active around VAR/ telecom convergence than Comcast, whose year-and-a-half-old Comcast Business Class Partner Program has won over once- skeptical VARs and master agents in a short time. According to channel chief Craig Schlagbaum, Comcast's channel-order volume increased by a magnitude of 15 times over the previous year and has continued to expand following last September's launch of Metro Ethernet services.
A year after significant management changes, Concierge has made good on a promise to go deeper and wider with partners.Among its 2012 releases was the Effective Client Management System, intended to help agent partners with pre- and post-sales support for clients spending more than $10,000 a month on communica- tions services.
CoreDial's game is cloud software and services, and it's built a formidable channel of interconnects and MSPs that private-label those offerings, as well as ILECs and CLECs.
This year, Cox became the last of the top five U.S. cable providers to open up a channel program, in the form of a referral program that's getting under way. Cox receives the lead and then pays a referral fee to the partner after Cox sells and installs the services.