AT&T launched its channel program, Partner Exchange, five years ago with five solution provider partners, a far cry from the robust wireline and mobility resale program that more than 600 partners are a part of today.
Partner Exchange was kicked off by then-president of AT&T's Partner Solutions, Brooks McCorcle. McCorcle and her team at the AT&T Foundry in Plano, Texas finalized the paperwork for its reseller contracts in February 2013, becoming one of the first service providers to offer a reselling opportunity around wireline and wireless services.
Since then, the Dallas-based carrier has expanded its program beyond connectivity to open the door to opportunities around next-gen networking, such as mobility and Internet of Things (IoT) for partners, including VARs, master agents, telecom agents, and MSPs.
Creative Technology Partners (CTP), a Norcross, Ga.-based solution provider, is one of the original five AT&T Partner Exchange members.
CTP started offering AT&T wired and wireless offerings to its enterprise customers in 2013, and the company today has branched out into emerging technology areas, offering managed hybrid and SD-WAN solutions, as well as professional services around cloud readiness.
John Costolaus, CTP's chief operating officer, told CRN that AT&T's partner program is unique because it built its partner program as a "startup" within a large, well-established company, and based Partner Exchange around direct feedback from solution providers.
"They started with a clean slate and asked us what we would like the program to be able to do and how to make [AT&T services] accessible to partners," Costolaus said.
What got CTP excited was that partners would have control over the client experience, Costolaus said. "It was about grabbing those network services from AT&T and wrapping our services around that offering to give it more of a personal feel to our end users," he said.
Zee Hussain leads the charge as channel chief of AT&T Partner Solutions today, following McCorcle's retirement in 2017. Hussain is responsible for not only the Partner Exchange program, but AT&T's Alliance Channel for agent partners and ACC Business, an alternate brand from the carrier that includes only core networking offerings -- essential data and voice services -- to SMB customers through channel partners.
"[Partner Exchange] is growing because business is transforming," said Randall Porter, vice president of AT&T Partner Exchange, and former colleague alongside McCorcle when she kicked off the program in 2013. "There are many business owners who want access to the power of AT&T, but prefer to buy their services through a solution provider."
Solution providers, Porter said, bring in-depth knowledge, expansive market reach, and strong relationships with customers.
Looking ahead, AT&T will continue to communicate with partners to figure out which automated tools they'll need to better serve their end customers. To that end, AT&T recently launched its open Application Programming Interface (API) platform, which gives solution providers access to AT&T's backend systems so they can offer their customers customized services and support.
Porter also recommends partners keep an eye on fiber opportunities, especially as AT&T continues its dominance in the market by building out its nationwide fiber footprint.
CTP, for one, is interested in how AT&T will evolve its intelligent networking edge platform FlexWare, a solution that was introduced in 2016 and became available through the channel in October. The solution provider is also keeping an eye on the rapidly maturing SD-WAN space.
"AT&T needs to keep listening to its clients and partners and keep evolving their services, because the services we are selling today won't be the ones we're selling five years from now," Costolaus said. "You can't ever become complacent."