AT&T Pumps $300M Into New Partner Financing Program, Other Channel Resources

AT&T Tuesday committed to investing $300 million into its Partner Exchange channel program over the next three years, money the carrier giant said it will put toward new partner training resources and financing options.

AT&T's announcement comes one year after the launch of Partner Exchange, AT&T's first partner program designed specifically for IT solution providers.

"We've been collaborating and rolling out AT&T Partner Exchange and have this new, innovative way of working with solution providers," said Brooks McCorcle, president of AT&T's Emerging Business Markets and head of Partner Exchange. "Today we are really happy to announce that we are providing this $300 million investment in capital, tools and programs for solution providers to be successful in the marketplace."

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McCorcle said a big piece of AT&T's $300 million investment will be spent on helping partners strengthen their working capital with new financing options. Specifically, she said solution providers selling AT&T's network, cloud, hosting or mobility services are eligible for 60 days of interest-free financing from participating partners GE Capital and Wells Fargo. Solution providers in Partner Exchange also are entitled to streamlined credit approvals.

McCorcle said the aim of the AT&T financing program is to help partners make the switch to selling AT&T services, and to the recurring revenue model that comes with those sales.

"I think we are one of the very few, if not the only, carriers who provide zero-percent financing for solution providers," McCorcle said. "And I think solution providers will find it much easier to access the capital they need to support their transformation."

AT&T also is investing in third-party billing and taxation solutions from vendors BillSoft and SureTax to help solution providers overcome the challenge of capturing and reporting taxes in a recurring revenue model.

Part of AT&T's $300 million investment, McCorcle said, also will be used to roll out a new online training course and other resources for partners. As most of the solution providers in Partner Exchange are new to AT&T, McCorcle said, these resources and courses are meant to bring them up-to-speed on AT&T's services and offerings around cloud, mobility and IP networking.

In addition, McCorcle said AT&T will use the investment to continue opening up more of its APIs to partners. Upon the launch of Partner Exchange in February 2013, AT&T let participating solution providers access its APIs, allowing them to independently monitor their end customers' networks and troubleshoot any issues without having to connect with AT&T directly or even to use the AT&T customer portal.

AT&T and its partners alike have said these APIs, which also streamline the product ordering and quoting process, is a big differentiator between AT&T's channel program and those of other carriers.

Looking ahead, McCorcle said she would like to build out APIs that enable solution providers to not only order products and monitor customers' networks, but to provision new AT&T services.

NEXT: AT&T Partners Expect Big Growth In 2014

Bruce Flitcroft, CEO and founder of Alliant Technologies, a Morristown, N.J.-based solution provider and AT&T partner, said that his AT&T business is poised for big growth in 2014, as customers continue to embrace AT&T's new go-to-market strategy.

"Out of our 10 biggest deals we are quoting right now, I would say seven of them involve AT&T. It was a slow start, and it took a while before customers could wrap their head around this new go-to-market, but once they started to get their head around it, they started to realize how powerful it is," Flitcroft told CRN. "It's exciting, and it's starting to really ramp up for us."

Flitcroft said he expects Alliant's AT&T business to grow an "awful lot" in 2014. "We had three of the Fortune 2000 companies sign up under this new program with us last year," he said. "We are looking at 12 of them signing up this year. That is a huge acquisition of new logos for us."

Robert Hogg, co-founder and executive director at Ancero, a Mount Laurel, N.J.-based solution provider and AT&T partner, also said he expects big growth in his AT&T business in 2014. He also noted how Ancero's partnership with AT&T is creating net new opportunities for Ancero, outside of its traditional portfolio of managed and data center services.

"Our AT&T outlook for 2014 is pretty strong. We have a very full funnel, and we are being warmly received by the market we serve, which is really the midmarket and below," Hogg said. "And what's really interesting is how we are sparking some unique, new discussions with our clients. We are a full-service provider, so to be able to provide all those connectivity options that clients need really helps to round out our product set and to do more for our clients."

The launch of AT&T Partner Exchange last year underscored the continued convergence between the IT and telecom channels, as traditional solution providers look to cloud and carrier services as a way to build out annuity-based business models.

Other telecom titans, including Comcast and Verizon, also have been building out their partner bases to include more IT-focused VARs over the past year.

McCorcle said AT&T Partner Exchange today boasts roughly 110 solution provider partners, and that AT&T has no plans of stopping there.