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Tech Data Seeks to ‘SKU-itize’ Mobility Sales for VARs

Tech Data Corp. announced the general availability of its TDMobility service, which seeks to "SKU-itize" mobile wireless sales for the channel.

TDMobility began in soft launch during summer 2011 with about 20 Tech Data VARs and since then has been expanded to include some 200 resellers in an effort to test the scalability of the platform in anticipation on today’s rollout to  the distributor’s more than 60,000 partners in the United States.

Joe Quaglia, president of TDMobility, told Channel Partners the program seeks to "SKU-itize" mobility by standardizing the process behind familiar systems that Tech Data VARs use today and insulating VARs from the complexity of working directly with the mobile operators and device maker. TDMobility also is designed to make selling mobility financially viable for the channel.

TDMobility covers  mobile hardware, software, service plans, activation and billing, regardless of the carrier. Tech Data presently has agreements with T-Mobile, AT&T and Sprint, and it is working to reach an agreement with Verizon as well.

"Our charter is to absorb the operating complexity the carriers bring to the channel," explained Charles Kriete, president of ActivateIT, the joint venture between Brightstar and Tech Data, that’s behind the TDMobility brand. Kriete comes to the venture from OTBT Inc., a company acquired by Brightstar in September 2010.

Kriete said it also has the benefit of defragmenting the supply chain for the end user. Today, most business source embedded wireless products like notebooks from their VAR and go directly to the carrier for smartphone devices and plans.

Kriete said TDMobility includes two offerings, CellManage and TDActivate, which gives VARs the option to provide a managed service or simply activate devices and plans, respectively.

CellManage allows VARs to provide managed mobility services by enabling clients to procure, track and manage billing of their cellular services across carriers through a white-label portal that is branded for the VAR.

Kriete said selling CellManage is analogous to the way VARs sell other solutions, e.g. selling a Cisco router with SMARTnet support services. The pricing model also is familiar — cost plus for the hardware and managed services subscription, which can be billed monthly, quarterly or annually. Kriete said retail is $4-$5 per line per month. He claimed that customers on CellManage realize a 90 percent reduction in the time they spend managing their mobile services and a 30 percent reduction in costs due to rate optimization.

TDActivate is for VARs that aren’t interested in offering a managed service. They still get a white-labeled portal, but it’s just for enabling customers to order devices and rate plans. The benefit to the VAR here is that they don’t have to subsidize the hardware. "If the MSRP is $99, we sell through to the channel for $75," Kriete explained, noting that in most scenarios the VAR has to pay the full device price of several hundred dollars and wait for the credits from the carrier for up to 120 days. Wireless activation is a one-time commission.

Kriete said value-added services also are available, including mobile device management, telemetry (machine-to-machine) and fixed mobile convergence applications.

Signup for the program is simple for existing Tech Data VARs and can be completed within 5 minutes. Prospective VARs will need to speak with a member of the TDMobility team to become a VAR before enrolling in the program. While the program was designed with IT VARs in mind, Kriete said TDMobility also can benefit telecom agents and dealers that are looking for an easier way to provide mobile wireless services to their customers.

Additionally, Tech Data offers partners free sales and product training and access to a demo program through  TDMobility University. The program includes nine modules and a certification exam.


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