Telecom Partners Overlooking Untapped Wireless Market May Be Leaving Money On The Table

Solution providers with telecom businesses have made good money in selling wireline, but trying to turn a profit from wireless sales was historically a different story. As business needs evolve, it might be time for partners to take another look at wireless offerings.

In the beginning, solution providers tapping into wireless sales were just activating phones in a one-time commission model, which wasn't very profitable. The sheer number of wireless plans from each of the carriers is also hard for solution providers to keep up with and understand completely, said Natasha Royer Coons, managing director of TeraNova Consulting Group Inc., a San Diego, Calif.- based firm that manages and supports mobile and fixed technology solutions for end customers.

"The commission wasn't that much, considering how much work it takes to support phones, so the agents were just running from it. [Solution providers] would try it once and get burned so bad that they never wanted to touch it again, especially when they could sell a wireline network and take a residual," Coons said.

[Related: CRN Exclusive: DataXoom Is Helping Partners Cash In On Mobility With Mobile Data Plan Program]

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But as demand for mobility increases, solution providers are starting to reconsider leaving wireless on the table.

TeraNova Consulting specializes in building wireless networks to replace wireline and telecom expense management solutions. The provider's approach to telecom billing includes wireless billing. Cost allocations are broken out on the TeraNova platform for partners, and TeraNova supports wireless plans from the four major domestic carriers: Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile. The platform can also support some international carriers, like Vodafone, too, Coons said.

"Everything in the platform is optimized and managed because the wireless plans change so rapidly that IT just can't keep on top of it -- they have too much on their plates, so we can do that for them. We have a whole team that keeps on top of all the [wireless] plans," she said.

In addition to making wireless easier to understand for partners, this platform has also created a way to turn the once one-time payment associated with wireless into a monthly recurring revenue stream, Coons said.

"I build a business around creating a residual revenue component to wireless," she added.

TeraNova isn't the only company that has identified wireless as an opportunity for partners.

Berkeley, Calif.-based DataXoom, a provider that focuses on mobility solutions, is now extending its internal billing platform to its partners so these solution providers can monetize mobility and earn recurring revenue on these plans in a similar fashion.

With the help of DataXoom, these partners can offer mobile plans from three of the largest carriers -- Verizon, AT&T and Sprint -- to their end customers. The program will give partners access to simplified multi-carrier engagements, deal registrations and billing on one platform, said Rob Chamberlin, DataXoom's co-founder and executive vice president, in an interview with CRN.

Because solution providers don't work for the carrier, partners are in a great position to broker even better wireless deals for customers. They also can bring their telecom management expertise to the table, TeraNova's Coons said.

While wireless sales don't account for much of a solution provider's revenue today -- a very small percentage, if any, Coons said -- she believes that this number will be growing over the next few years. Coons sees wireless as potentially becoming 25 percent to 30 percent of a telecom partner's revenue mix should these providers take advantage of the opportunity.

"Partners don't have to force change, they can manage the ongoing support, and they'll have the residual revenue. … [Wireless] is so untapped, it's amazing," she said.