Tech Data Planning Wireless Services

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Tech Data is negotiating with wireless carriers to offer wireless activation services that will complement its lineup of mobile devices.

Dan O'Brien, vice president of product marketing in Tech Data's peripherals division, confirmed that the distributor has been talking with virtually all

of the North American wireless carriers to secure the rights to resell activations. In addition to acting as a master agent for wireless carriers, Tech Data is looking to provide better nationwide wireless coverage capabilities for large corporations and is working to negotiate roaming agreements between carriers, he said.

But the distributor is still very much in the negotiation process and not yet ready to announce any services, O'Brien said.

"Are we ready to sign contracts with these guys? Some of them, but others are much further off," he said.

Tech Data is the latest distributor to signal that it wants to enter the burgeoning wireless services market. Ingram Micro also recently confirmed reports that it is negotiating with wireless carriers.

But solution providers question whether such programs will be successful, pointing out that many national corporations,which Tech Data hopes to target through its solution provider partners,already have direct relationships with carriers through existing wireless voice plans.

Jim Collins, vice president of mobile computing at Cotelligent, a San Francisco-based e-business and mobile solution provider, said Tech Data could create a competitive advantage by providing nationwide coverage for wireless data services through a series of roaming agreements. "That would be a big play," he said.

For SMB customers, however, Collins and other solution providers said that a one-stop shop for wireless hardware and services would be helpful. And SMB solution providers have said they are anxious to get a piece of activation commissions for wireless data services.

O'Brien acknowledged that implementing wireless services will be difficult. Partnership agreements with carriers can be extremely complex, and Tech Data will need to train its solution providers on some elements of wireless services, he said.

Carriers routinely pay wireless activation commissions with the caveat that they must be refunded if a customer discontinues service within 180 days.

Because of that, O'Brien said Tech Data will need to warn solution providers to hold on to commissions for several months before declaring them as profits.

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