Adtran's Growth Drivers: Wireless, Carrier Networking, VARs

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Modesty is suit Adtran wears well, and sometimes to its detriment: the $606 million networking and infrastructure company is still seen as something of a lesser-known, especially in the enterprise business markets where Cisco, HP and much larger competitors dominate.

But to hear Adtran's top brass talk about investment priorities last week at Adtran Connect -- the company's annual press and analyst event at its Huntsville, Ala. headquarters -- that competitive stance is paying dividends for Adtran and its partners in a big way.

Adtran CEO Tom Stanton said it doesn't make sense for Adtran to be in markets that are "speculative," but the company would continue to take a long-term view of where networking trends are headed and make its moves based on those projections.

"We look at markets in a pragmatic way," said Stanton in a question-and-answer session with media and analysts. "If you do the right things and come out with products that make sense in the markets you know will be there, ultimately you will gain market share."

Added Stanton, "We expect to do well five years from now, not two years from now. By having that perspective, we have focus when other companies drop off."

Adtran reported $606 million in revenue for its fiscal 2010, up more than 20 percent from the $408 million in had in 2009. According to Gary Bolton, vice president of global marketing, Adtran has seen record growth in internetworking products, broadband access products and optical access products, which combine to represent 89 percent of the company's overall revenue.

Its international expansion is also bearing fruit; Adtran's international revenue is now a nearly 11 percent revenue contributor and grew 163 percent year-over-year in the most recent quarter, Bolton said.

Adtran overall has added nearly 10 percent to its community of channel partners -- about 300 new partners to its current base of about 3,400 -- and the company has a heavy focus on partner recruitment. Adtran executives told CRN last week that the company had recently split its enterprise channel sales team into two teams, one focused on service provider partners and the other on VARs, to give Adtran's base of VARs more dedicated resources.

The growth of VAR-led sales as a revenue contributor was a big topic throughout Connect. Enterprise sales, where many of Adtran's longtime VARs play, still only account for about a quarter of Adtran's overall revenue pie.

"We depended on carrier sales for too long," Stanton told media and analysts, mentioning that VAR sales with Adtran had grown for six straight quarters. "We wanted to see VAR growth turn into revenue growth."

The bets Adtran is making on technology are paying off. Unified communications, for example, is the fastest-growing piece of Adtran's enterprise portfolio, said Rick Schansman, senior vice president and general manager for Adtran's Enterprise Networks Division. It is also creating pull-through opportunities for Adtran's switches, routers and other bread-and-butter networking products.

But the big play for Adtran -- and the single subject that captured more attention at Connect than any other -- was Adtran's August 2011 acquisition of Bluesocket, a move that dramatically bolstered what Adtran can offer for wireless LAN solutions.

"It's the biggest door opener I've got today," said Schansman to CRN last week. "We plan to water that puppy and make it grow."

NEXT: The Vision For Bluesocket Wireless

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