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.
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.
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.
As a national switchless CLEC, DynaLink offers voice and data solutions spanning VPN, MPLS, T1, POTS lines and a lot more. DynaLink agents receive commissions as well as marketing, sales, engineering and service support as part of the program.
DukeNet greeted the fall with a brand-new channel program, through which it also added a master agent relationship with Converged Network Services Group. DukeNet is now offering its high-bandwidth connectivity solutions for enterprise and data center through VARs, consultants and systems integrators.
EarthLink's strength, of late, has been to offer pre-prescribed bundled services through partners as a way to give customers the range of communications they need while letting the channel make the offers as custom as possible.
Ernest Communications, the Georgia CLEC, has been steadily increasing its channel presence with strong offers in voice, data, telecom expense management and hosted connectivity. The company also has expanded its executive team, having brought on former SPS vice president David D'Antonio in August to run sales and marketing.
Evolve IP's been lauded for the flexibility of its channel programs, which include everything from private-label offerings for MSPs to the reselling and integration of cloud services such as unified communications,WAN connectivity and backup and recovery, and perimeter security and monitoring.
It's only three years old, but eZuce had a fully baked UC software suite at launch as well as a channel strategy, and its EZ Partner Program offers Expert, Pro and Elite levels targeting various sizes of business. Its partner-hosted Communications-as-a-Service offer- ings have been especially well-received.
The business and fiber communications specialist's Sales Agent Program draws on national and regional telecom agents,VARs and systems integrators serving customers with IP data and voice.It offers commission payments with residual and bounty components and lets select agents tackle installation management and more.
Canadian telecom stalwart G3 Telecom covers residential, busi- ness and wholesale connectivity needs. It offers VoIP, Internet, long-distance and telecom expense management services under reseller, agent and referral programs.
The One Marketplace Access Exchange is a platform for auto- mated pricing, ordering and provisioning of multivendor access networks--a "marketplace" to connect customers and networking suppliers. It welcomes VARs, integrators and MSPs as partners.
Globalinx, which is undergoing a rebranding this month, focuses on hosted PBX, SIP trunking, mobile video applications and interconnection. It partners with agents and wholesale partners and markets both business and residential services.
Glowpoint has sought to boost its position as a premier managed video services provider by growing channel sales of its OpenVideo cloud platform. In August, it acquired public videoconferencing room and managed video services specialist Affinity VideoNet.
Granite's known for its solid-as-a-rock channel offerings, which combine residual revenue share plans with telecom agent incen- tives to sell POTS, long-distance, broadband, structured cabling and other services.
Integra offers a Premier Partner Agent Program, which includes a commission structure plus dedicated resources and co-branding/ marketing collateral, and a Referral Partner Program, through which partners receive referral fees for sending business Integra's way.
Level 3's blockbuster acquisition of Global Crossing in 2011 meant a tricky channel program integration, but as of the end of last year, the programs had merged and former Level 3 sales vice president Michael Jerich had been named vice president, indirect channels. Level 3's Business Partner program awards solution providers channel-neutral compensation and training.
Offering data, voice and wireless, Lightyear Agent Partners have access to LightSource, a resource for agent information, promo- tions and keeping track of commissions, and PortalPlus, a CRM tool, as well as regional sales managers and sales development specialists responsible for channel enablement.
Masergy tweaked its partner program a year ago to offer more rewards to higher-classified partners more strategically aligned to the company. Not only has Masergy's channel partner revenue continued to climb, the company's also made waves with a recent acquisition of hosted UC player Broadcore Communications.
MASS Communications offers a full range of telecom management services, including voice, data, network and risk management.
The big news for CLEC McGraw and its channel was that in August, it launched the full-fledged managed services program it had been promising for months.What's available already is asset and infrastructure monitoring, and McGraw has said that more services, such as VoIP, SIP and MPLS, are soon to follow.
Mediacom Business, a division of broadband provider Mediacom Communications, has a Business Partner Program for telecom agents and consultants. Service offerings include fiber-based voice and data products and business Internet, phone and TV services to SMBs.
Longtime channel pal MegaPath this fall took a bigger leap into cloud services with a suite of cloud hosting offeringss, powered by VMware vCloud. Earlier this year, Megapath also retooled its partner portal to include capabilities such as enhanced order status tracking and customer support ticket tracking.
Through Lync, Microsoft became a force in unified communica- tions, and thanks to the UC functions in its Office 365 suite as a whole, is becoming a mighty player for hosted communications too.
The company is as of this year a registered CLEC, through its Mitel NetSolutions business. Through a new offering, AnyWare IaaS, Mitel extended its Freedom UC architecture so that organizations can host Mitel's virtualized UC and collaboration software in private data centers NetSolutions provides.
Nectar, a wholly owned subsidiary of solution provider Juma, offers Enterprise Session Management for H.323 and SIP-based IP PBXes and sells into enterprise and carrier environments. It includes Solu- tions Partners, for using Nectar services at the core of a managed service offering, Reseller Partners and Referral Partners.
Japanese telecom bigwig NTT's reach goes deep into the channel, not least for its ownership of global integrator Dimension Data. But it also has a well-regarded NTT America Global IP Network Channel Partner Program, which covers agents paid on commis- sion, resellers that receive service discounts, and referral partners.
PanTerra Networks has some of the strongest customer word- of-mouth of any hosted communications provider, especially in often-fickle SMB customer segments. Its partner base includes VARs and wholesalers that can opt for private-label service options.
PGi's generated a lot of buzz in the Web conferencing space and has strategic relationships with channel partners and A/V inte- grators such as AVI-SPL. It also has a significant agent program through which it offers commissions, customer and sales support and various training and partner incentive programs.
Primus specializes inVoIP, data and conferencing services for busi- ness clients and recently bought out the remaining 54.4 percent of Canadian CLEC Globility Communications Corp. that it didn't already own.
RingCentral's Sales Agent and Reseller Program is often short- listed among hosted communications providers building into channel forces. RingCentral went live with the program two years ago and has continued to add SMB-focused solution providers as well as add to its $55 million-plus venture capital take.
Following its February 2012 acquistion of hosted VoIP specialist M5 Networks, ShoreTel is full speed ahead as a cloud services provider under ShoreTel Sky, the rebranded M5 platform that ShoreTel is now offering to both traditional UC VAR solution providers and telecom agents.
It's been a little more than a year since Siemens Enterprise Com- munications launched its OpenScape Cloud Services into the U.S. market, and the success of the offering so far was enough for Gartner to include Siemens in its annual Magic Quadrant for UC- as-a-Service. Couple that with Siemens' overall enterprise partner gains here and it's clear a stronger channel player is emerging.
Beloved for its easy-to-grasp hostedVoIP, telephony and Microsoft cloud productivity application approach to the market, Simple- Signal is finally getting the industry accolades its loyal partners have been pushing for. It supports both agent/reseller and wholesale model partners.
Sprint has spent much of this year honing its SaaS chops and mak- ing moves beyond its basic telecom channel purview. In August, Sprint launched what it described as a "BYOD management" solution for devices--further proof that when we're talking about the mobile carrier, telecom agent and IT device markets, we're often talking about the same thing.
Stage 2, which commissions partners that refer customer business its way, has been an active participant in the wave of consolida- tion sweeping the UC and business connectivity spaces, having acquired the hostedVoIP division of VAR ConsolidatedTechnolo- gies early this year. Of late, the company has been expanding its MSP partnering efforts.
One of the more highly regarded channel programs of recent years is Star2Star's, which invites dealers and agents to sell both its VoIP service and communications systems in an integrated package deal. Among recent technology releases were a cloud- based faxing service, StarFax Personal, and new StarBox Internet Communications Appliances.
TDS earlier this year acquired CRN Tech Elite 250 solution provider Vital and, less than three months later, went live with an Infrastructure-as-a-Service offering called ReliaCloud. It's part of the expanded cloud play for TDS, which owns and operates the country's seventh-largest telecom provider,TDSTelecommunica- tions Corp., and also majority-owns US Cellular.
Telcentris has seen big gains in its hosted VoIP and SIP solutions business, VoxOx in Business, in the past year. Several 2012 pro- motions offered solution providers things like spifs on monthly recurring revenue agreements. Telcentris also recently opened a data center in New York City to better serve East Coast-based customers and partners.
TelePacific rolled out several new offerings heading into the fall, including the expansion of its SmartVoice PRI, SIP and business phone services to nationwide availability. Most excit- ing for TelePacific partners, however, is that it plans to launch a cloud-based PBX in the fourth quarter, to be delivered over its private network.
Telesphere offers master agent, agent and referral programs to partners covering a wide range of services, from managed WAN services and hosted PBX to dynamic T1 and MPLS. The company recently added points of presence in Atlanta and Chicago to expand its national MPLS network.
Business connectivity managed services provider Telova- tions debuted two channel programs this fall. One, called the Equipment Resale Program, enables agents and other MSPs to add equipment-based revenue streams by not only ordering preconfigured communications equipment but also having it drop-shipped for customers. The other, called the Telovations' Lead Generation Program, offers free sales leads and qualifica- tion toVARs and MSPs.
Telx has boosted its cloud services presence by continuing to add new partners to the Telx Cloud Exchange. It offers cloud services through 17 C3 Cloud Connection Centers based in nine major U.S. metropolitan markets.
Thinking Phone's a small fry with some big buzz thanks to a UC-as-a-Service portfolio that offers VoIP, presence, messaging, mobility, video and contact center off a proprietary platform. Telecom industry veteran Rob Shelby recently joined as regional vice president, channel sales.
Time Warner Cable Business Class was another cable company that saw the expandingVAR opportunity years ago. Its program is now four years old and is nearly one-third IT solution providers. Time Warner Cable offers aggressive commissions on IP data and voice communications to SMBs and enterprises.
T-Mobile's kept active in expanding its portfolio of business connectivity services, including the June 2012 release of mobile broadband data plans to make business mobile use less cumber- some and costly.The company is expected to offer more incentives for partners under its T-Mobile Affiliate Program, too.
Challenging would be an understatement to describe the year had by Trans National Communciations International, which has spent much of it in Chapter 11 bankruptcy. As of press time, TNCI was continuing to negotiate terms with creditors and has claimed to have largely preserved its customer relationships.
TWTelecom has one of the better-reviewed programs: a solid mix of product support and partner training, sales and marketing resources and solid commissions on top of its fiber network, IPVPN and Busi- ness Ethernet services. It just launched Dynamic Capacity, a program through which customers can scale their Ethernet bandwidth and capacity across their network without service interruption.
Verizon's been as much channel foe as channel friend over the years, but the company does have strong cloud and UC-as-a- Service offerings it's using to build up channel enterprise and SMB business. In the UC-as-a-Service category specifically, it offers hosted communications off Broadsoft and Cisco HCS platforms.
Vocal IP Networx offers a full range of telephony and UC connec- tivity services through an agent channel and has continued to add master agents as well. Its also expanding into the Microsoft Lync channel, using Lync as the foundation for its Vocal UC platform.
West, a serial acquirer, made a strategic buy last year of Smooth- stone, through which it gained a cloud solution supporting VoIP, contact center, messaging, audio conferencing, presence, mobility and other critical UC functions.
Whaleback's been a mark of consistency with its CrystalBlue Partner Program as it continues to expand cloud-based UC and managed services offerings. Among recent technology addi- tions was 911 functionality for its Managed Services platform to improve emergency response for business customers.
Windstream's December 2011 acquisition of Paetec included a colossal task as far as integrating a large channel community and keeping its processes and service delivery smooth for a com- bined customer base. There have been bumps along the way but Windstream has promised to keep its channel "business as usual."
XO this past summer rolled out a significantly revamped partner program behind the January launch of its new commissioning system.The new XO program includes five tiers, which at the entry level includes no revenue or sales requirements, and at higher levels include better commissions and more contract protection.
Is Zayo Group the next major telecom channel empire? Sure seems that way thanks to the rate at which the five-year-old communications player is growing and acquiring major telecom companies. Its biggest acquisition so far was AboveNet, and as that acquisition closed, Zayo was quick to assure AboveNet partners that their compensation and customers would be preserved.