Verizon's Call To Partners

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The program will enable Verizon partners to sell and wrap products and services around the carrier's 1xEV-DO AirCards, which deliver high-bandwidth Internet access at speeds between 400 Kbps and 700 Kbps, according to channel sources. The program is scheduled for a soft launch Sept. 21, with a full rollout to follow Oct. 1, sources said.

Verizon, Bedminster, N.J., declined to comment.

"The biggest change is that under the new program, co-selling between channel partners and Verizon representatives is encouraged," said Paul Giobbi, president of Zumasys, a Verizon partner in Lake Forest, Calif.

Under the program, the commission that partners are paid for AirCard activations will become more competitive, and Verizon representatives will be compensated "100 percent" on partner sales, Giobbi said.

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Moreover, one source said the new program will make it possible for partners to sell into accounts formerly tended to by the carrier's direct-sales force, a move Giobbi described as "huge."

A direct-sales culture has hindered past channel programs from Verizon, said an executive for another partner, who requested anonymity. But now, "there is enough executive buy-in at the top level to make [a cooperative channel program] work," the partner executive said.

The carrier's tendency to emphasize wireless voice service plans as opposed to data plans has not helped past channel efforts either, said Giobbi.

"They have a wonderful network, but their channel programs have been a mess, mainly because they are voice people, not data people," he said. "If you called them to ask 'How do I provision my applications?' or 'What about SSL security?' they'd reply 'What's your rate plan?' "

Other wireless carriers such as Sprint Nextel and Cingular Wireless are ahead of Verizon when it comes to supporting effective channel plans that engage partners and talk the language of data, said Lee Kleinman, COO of Dallas-based Trio Teknologies.

"This is Verizon playing catchup," Kleinman said.

Trio is one of at least three distributors being readied by Verizon to administrate its new channel program, according to partners.

Kleinman confirmed a closer working relationship with the wireless carrier, but would not divulge further details.

Global Wireless Data, Norcross, Ga., is another distributor set to expedite the program for partners, said Doug Erbig, regional sales manager, who added that he was "enthusiastic" about the new effort.