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AT&T Opens Its Channel Doors With Partner Exchange Program

One AT&T partner says the telecom giant's new channel program offers VARs margins that are just as good as, if not better than, those offered by channel vets like Cisco and Microsoft.

AT&T Wednesday took the wraps of a new channel program aimed at broadening its footprint in the mid-market space and bolstering a VAR community that can help resell and customize its mobility, cloud and networking solutions.

AT&T's new partner program, dubbed AT&T Partner Exchange, falls under the telecom giant's newly formed Emerging Business Markets organization also introduced Wednesday, which is a segment of its broader AT&T Business Solutions segment.

Brooks McCorcle, president of AT&T's new Emerging Business Markets organization, said the company's new partner program is being viewed as the cornerstone of its broader strategy to get its IP networking and other solutions into the hands of smaller- and mid-sized companies.

[Related: 10 Telecom Predictions For 2013 ]

"It was really our desire to enable solution providers to provide end-user customers, particularly in the middle part of the market, more choices as to how they want to do business with us," McCorcle told CRN. "We believe in a lot of ways that the solution provider is very well positioned with a lot of middle market customers. They kind of have staked their claims, and they know these [midmarket] businesses inside and out. They meet with them regularly, they are there in the field with them and they are customizing solutions."

AT&T today works with about 700 solution providers, most of which partner as agents. But, the new Partner Exchange program is being targeted specifically at IT consulting shops and system integrators that can wrap their own services and customizations around AT&T's offerings to deliver a complete end-to-end solution to midmarket customers, McCorcle said.

Bruce Flitcroft, CEO and founder of Alliant Technologies, a Morristown, N.J.-based solution provider and 12-year AT&T partner, said AT&T's new Partner Exchange program is a game changer for his business and a milestone for the telecom industry, which hasn't traditionally been a big advocate for the channel.

"[AT&T] hasn't been the greatest channel partner in the world," Flitcroft told CRN, noting that his partnership with the telecom giant up until now has been largely as an agent. "This, however, seems to be a complete 180 for them. [The program] has the traditional best practices of any channel program; it's multitiered, and there are back-end rebate capabilities ..., all the things you would expect of the bigger and best-of-breed channel program from traditional channel companies, like Cisco, Microsoft or SAP."

The three main AT&T solutions being sold through the channel are its IP networking solutions, its cloud-based offerings -- namely, its compute-as-a-service and storage-as-a-service solutions -- and its mobility managed services. These solutions were handpicked by VARs, including Flitcroft and his team, who collaborated with AT&T's Emerging Business Market and Foundry organizations to build the new program.

NEXT: Big Recurring Revenue Opportunity For Partners


While McCorcle declined to provide details surrounding VAR discounts on AT&T solutions and partner margins, she said the opportunity for recurring revenue will be huge.

"AT&T is in the business of providing services that recur on a monthly basis and get billed on a monthly basis," McCorcle said. "So we will sell our services to a solution provider, or the elements of that service that they want, at discount, and those discounts will be competitive in the market place. They will then provide tier-one care, they will do the design, they will own the end-user customer [account, and] they will customize the solution. And we've built [the program] in such a way that they can set their own price point in the market place."

Flitcroft agreed, describing the margin potential as "phenomenal," given the breadth of AT&T's networking and mobility practice.

As part of the its new Partner Exchange program, AT&T is also opening up its application programming interfaces (APIs) to solution providers, allowing them to independently monitor end users' networks and troubleshoot any issues, without having to connect with AT&T directly or tap into one of its customer portals.

"[VARs] will be able to gain visibility into certain systems and processes and tools ... in terms of being able to provision a service, being able to look at trouble tickets, being able to change a service and being able to monitor the network," McCorcle said.

Flitcroft said the open APIs piece is something unique not just to telecom space but the channel in general. "That's something that most channel programs have never seen," he told CRN.

PUBLISHED FEB. 20, 2013

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