Channels Can Benefit from New Focus on VoIP, Wireless

VoIP and wireless — two of the hottest areas in networking today — present new opportunities for agents and resellers. Channel Partners attendees can learn more about that during today’s panel on remote access.

Panelist Darren Kelly, director of global partner and channel development for Level 3 Communications Inc., will present information on the company’s new hosted VoIP application, (3)Tone Business Voice Service, for which it is seeking resellers. The service, available now nationwide, is targeted at small and medium-sized businesses. It can be sold with broadband Internet access or as a standalone VoIP offer for those SMB customers with existing access.

"We think the functionality (3)Tone offers is like TiVo — customers never want to go back," Kelly says. "It lets customers control their communications. It’s going to be a leap in communications."

Kelly says Level 3 is interested in signing reseller partners — but not agents — to take this product to market. "We’re not looking for agents, we’re looking for resellers to own the customer," he says. "We think the agent model has a lot of baggage that pits carrier against agent. We think on the reseller model all that goes away." Level 3 will offer an "Intel inside-type" program through which the resellers can put their own brands on the service, he adds.

Although resellers will write the customer contracts and own the customers, Kelly says that Level 3 expects its reseller partners will be able to mark-up the service to make margins of 50 percent or greater. "We expect that even with 50 percent margins, resellers will be able to price (3)Tone Hosted Business Services at a significant discount to traditional local and long-distance services," he adds.

Level 3 also will provide on-site sales and operational support training, sales engineering training, market development funds, sales incentives, rights to use certain Level 3 brand service marks, access to Level 3’s Executive Briefing Centers and technical facilities, and leads from Level 3-sponsored lead generation programs.

Also on the remote access panel is Douglas Bonestroo, CEO of RemotePipes Inc., a global roaming/Internet access solution company serving individuals and small businesses. Bonestroo will tackle the wireless part of the discussion.

"The single biggest issue now is wireless," Bonestroo says. "Up until now, corporate travelers, when they wanted mobile Internet access, had basically three options." One was to buy it from AT&T Corp., EarthLink Inc. or MSN. The second option was to build access in house, but that requires an expensive LAN administrator, a remote access server, and six or eight incoming 800 lines, depending on the number of travelers at a given company. The third option was to sign up with a "pure play" roaming company such as Fiberlink Communications Corp., GRIC Communications Inc. or iPass Inc.

"But that does not solve the problem for small businesses," he says. "We’re best of breed in the small business space. We let small businesses anywhere in world have the ability to go on the Internet and sign up for our global roaming solutions.

"It’s a very large, fragmented marketplace," he adds.

RemotePipes, which owns data centers in Dallas and California, also has a wholesale program, and big names like Adelphia, Shaw and Verizon already are among the resellers of its services, says Bonestroo. "Every telecommunications provider — ISP, CLEC, ILEC, Wi-Fi provider — will have to provide global, wireless access," he adds. "But not everybody is going to have the skill sets to be able to provide a solution like that."

Although well more than 95 percent of remote access is wireless, Bonestroo says, the importance of wireless is clear, so RemotePipes is integrating wireless — including CDMA, GPRS and Wi-Fi — into its remote access portfolio. Those services will be available from the company by April, he says, through a combination of its own Wi-Fi access point infrastructure and the networks of partners. At the same time, he adds, RemotePipes is working to create a new brand that encompasses multiple access methods. The brand has not yet been assigned a name.

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