PlanetOne CEO: 5G A Disruptive But Mysterious Technology For The Channel


5G is arguably the hottest and most disruptive technology heading into 2019, but its full potential for partners remains somewhat of a mystery, according to the founder of master agent PlanetOne Communications.

"There seems to be anxiety in the channel over 5G, and maybe some of that anxiety is from simply not knowing what 5G is, how it's going to be packaged, and what's disruptive about it that I can tell my customer base," Ted Schuman, PlanetOne's founder and CEO told CRN ahead of its year-end Tech Tour this week in Scottsdale, Arizona.

The largest carriers in the nation have been hard at work promoting next-generation wireless technology, which promises speeds of as much as 1,000 times faster than 4G, as well as better capacity and lower latency. But most telecom agents have the majority -- if not all -- of their customer bases on wireline contracts today, Schuman said.

[Related: PlanetOne Panel To Partners: Don't Fear A Longer Sales Cycle]

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Appropriately, PlanetOne's November 2018 Tech Tour event will feature a 5G "Cage Match" between senior execs from Verizon, T-Mobile, AT&T and Broad Sky Networks, in which the carriers will duke it out over their 5G plans and progress, and perhaps most importantly, discuss when the technology will be ready for business users.

Up until now, 5G services announced by the carriers have been only available to residential customers. Dallas-based AT&T this fall revealed plans to roll out a standards-based mobile 5G network and a mobile 5G device to 19 markets later this year and into 2019. Basking Ridge, NJ.-based competitor Verizon in October also announced that its early 5G service, Verizon 5G Home, went live in specific areas in four cities, including Houston, Indianapolis, Los Angeles and Sacramento, Calif.

"The carriers are saying that 5G will turn upside down the apple cart and everything we've known in the channel is going to be replaced with 5G," Schuman said. But while 5G offers some interesting elements for partners, including a guaranteed class of service over wireless for business customers and wireless speeds on par with wireline speeds, the technology still isn't ready for primetime, he said.

To make 5G a viable option for the channel, carriers will have to make the revenue model appealing to partners. Today, wireline services offer residual compensation, while most wireless services have offered one-time payouts to partners.

"You have partners earning 100 percent recurring revenue today," he said "If providers think partners like us are going to rip and replace embedded services that are providing recurring revenue for a one-time 5G payment, they are going to be horribly disappointed."

Because the product isn't ready for business use cases, going to market through the channel with 5G is still very much on the drawing board, Schuman said.

"Partners are hearing about 5G, so they need to be able to talk about the offering intelligently to their clients," he said.

PlanetOne is also taking to its Tech tour to show off Solutions Navigator for partners, a mobile sales tool that puts PlanetOne's supplier partner offerings in one place, similar to a "cheat sheet," Schuman said.

"It's a live document that's constantly being updated in real-time so our partners have the most current information, promotions, rates, and products, in one digital place," he said.

From there, partners will be able to use PlanetOne's customizable Proposal Template, which can be used to populate services and pricing info along with the partner's logo that can be presented to end customers. The Proposal Template will be available in Q1 2019.

PlanetOne, a self-proclaimed cloud-first master agency, experienced more than 20 percent year-over-year sales growth in 2018. The company also grew its staff by nearly 30 percent and plans to continue to increase its headcount in 2019 with brand-new sales and engineering-focused positions, according to Schuman.