Competition with channel partners also has been a concern for distributors in adding carrier services to their portfolios. Brian Cuppett, vice president of merchandizing for ScanSource Communications, explains: "In many cases we're providing hardware to many of the service providers that would like us to sell their services, and choosing one over another could cause a distributor challenges." Because of this, ScanSource Communications is exploring alternative ways to satisfy both the service providers' hardware requirements and their interest in selling services through ScanSource Communications' VAR network.
For other distributors this has not been a particular hang-up — though their forays have been limited in scope. Ingram Micro, for example, operates a mobility division, Ingram Micro Mobile, that includes carrier services from the big four wireless operators — Sprint, Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile USA. Tech Data also has a mobility unit, TDMobility, which was formed as a joint venture between Tech Data and BrightStar in summer 2011 based on BrightStar's acquisition of a wireless master agency.
Noticeably absent from the distributor line card is carrier wireline services. That is changing with the fall 2012 deal between TD Mobility and MicroCorp. TDMobility now offers carrier services through MicroCorp’s contractual relationships with more than 50 service providers. In addition, MicroCorp will manage all pre- and post-sales functions, while VARs will be able to monitor opportunity and order status through Nautilus, MicroCorp’s carrier services management system.
Such alliances between master agencies and distributors are not unprecedented. In 2008, for example, WTG signed with Westcon Group Inc. to provide SIP trunking services from its carrier suppliers as part of Westcon's CollaborationPoint OpenSource solutions program, which supports Asterisk-based open-source telephony platforms from Digium Inc. paired with open standard SIP trunking.
As it concerns core services offered by master agencies and distributors, the overlap presently is slight and, as noted, occasionally assisted by partnerships between the two. Gartner's Bova contends that the intersection will remain confined to specific legacy categories, such as mobility, networking and voice solutions.
Where there is more crossover potential is in emerging services, i.e., the cloud. That's because cloud enables IT and telecom hardware and software capabilities to be delivered as a service. "As the market continues to move away from being product-centric to service-centric the overlap is bound to happen," said Anurag Agrawal, CEO of Techaisle LLC, a channel-focused market research firm.