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Solution Providers Going Mobile

For solution providers looking to get into the wireless game, there are ways to get around having to maintain personal relationships with nationwide cellular carriers and still do business with SMB customers eager to go wireless.

wireless SMB

Brightpoint, a national distributor of wireless products started its Advanced Wireless Services division last year, and VARs are taking advantage of the company's ability to deal in both hardware and cellular connectivity services.

The Plainfield, Ind.-based distributor currently has about 140 solution providers signed on, is promoting Sprint and Cingular wireless device activations and is targeting the SMB market.

"We wanted to be involved as aggressively as we could in smart devices. As the proliferation of smart phones came out and the recognition that the early uptake of those products would probably be in the business community, it seemed like a natural operation for us," said David Brown, senior vice president of the Advanced Wireless Services (AWS) division at Brightpoint.

"We think that the real winner in this space is going to be able to offer a complete solution. It's not just the device. We're not just activated on a carrier network. It's really a combination of products and services along with product support and technical support," Brown said.

Ron Espinosa, president and CEO of Duane David Associates, a solution provider in Putnam Valley, N.Y., has been working with Brightpoint's AWS division since October and turns to the distributor when providing solutions to customers that include wireless products and carrier plans.

Before joining AWS, Espinosa said that Duane David was about to get out of the wireless deployment business altogether. He attributes the solution provider's change of heart to AWS' ability to understand the technologies they're selling, bringing value to both his organization and to his customers. Duane David uses Brightpoint as both a hardware distributor and wireless plan activation service, and has been utilizing products from the company in about 70 percent of its recent business projects.

"What I've found with the Brightpoint AWS guys is that they get it. They actually understand all of the technology that is going around. The Webinars and videoconferencing and meetings from afar, they understand that. They also understand that you have to put some skin into it and meet face to face," Espinosa said.

While he is pleased with the range of products and services available, Espinosa would like to see Brightpoint improve some of its communication channels with VARs on new products and availability.

DJJ Technologies, Islandia, N.Y., began working with Brightpoint in November, and also reports a positive experience, highlighting the company's breadth of knowledge on its products. DJJ Technologies was a traditional telco shop, specializing in Avaya products before bringing on Brightpoint as a partner.

"If it wasn't for Brightpoint, the mobility portion of our business would not have grown and we would still be a legacy telephony provider," said Tom Parisi, CTO of DJJ Technologies.

"They definitely have things that are really important to us. They have the knowledge in this industry. In the mobility segment, they're key," he said. "These gents have the application specialists that you really need to work with. It's not about whether it's a Treo or a BlackBerry, it's [about] who knows the applications. Everything they say they're going to do, they perform."

Since working with Brightpoint, DJJ, which brings in about $20 million in revenue annually, has seen mobility product sales increase to 20 percent and 25 percent from 8 percent to 12 percent.

The biggest perk to working with an agent like Brightpoint when setting up wireless service for a client, Parisi said, is the ability to deal with Brightpoint directly and not with carriers like Cingular and Sprint.

Taking on wireless deployments isn't all wine and roses, however, said Steve Beauregard, president of Regard Solutions, a VAR in Santa Monica, Calif. "My recommendation to any smaller shop would be before they sign up into one of these agreements is to be sure you want to be in the wireless business. It's not like reselling a computer where you take the money on your transaction and you're done. It takes on a life of its own. Once you give someone a cell phone, they look at you [for support and services]," he said.

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