**Editor’s Note: Click here for Channel Partners’ extensive coverage of AT&T’s inaugural Partner Exchange Summit.**
AT&T PARTNER EXCHANGE SUMMIT — Opportunities for partners in mobility are almost infinite.
That was the message from many of AT&T’s top executives at this week’s inaugural AT&T Partner Exchange Summit in Irving, Texas, which attracted some of the company’s top solution-provider and service-provider partners to learn, share success stories and network.
“Customers expect the reach and the density no matter where they are around the world,” said Steve McGaw, chief marketing officer, AT&T Business Solutions, noting that this creates a challenge for AT&T and its partners to keep pace with demand and sometimes unreasonable expectations.
To that point, AT&T spends $21 billion per year to meet its customers’ insatiable need for bandwidth, 70 percent of which is forecast to be video just three years from now.
“Businesses are challenged every day. [They’re asking themselves,] ‘How do I mobilize my workforce and keep up with the competition?’ We’re building the network of the future. … I would challenge you (partners) to think about how you can … create a distinctive advantage,” said McGaw.
One advantage might be in vertical markets, including health care, government finance industry. The need for mobile solutions in these industries is exploding.
“You bring industry vertical-markets expertise in customer segments that [we can’t reach] …” McGaw added.
It’s a sentiment shared by John Stankey, group president and chief strategy officer at AT&T, who said that the huge number of potential customers in a seemingly endless number of industries requires help from solution providers; the carrier’s direct sales force can’t even begin to touch all of them.
“It’s why we’re turning to people like you to do that to ensure that you can still bring AT&T’s network to the customer as a solution, but you have the expertise to deliver that to the end user,” Stankey said.
Stankey said that AT&T’s strategy is to provide what he called “ubiquitous sessions,” essentially meaning that businesspeople and consumers can have access to data no matter the connection type, no matter where they are. He highlighted the company’s relationship with General Motors on connected cars and its new in-flight connectivity effort as examples.
“We want a solution that works across the Wi-Fi footprint,” Stankey said. “We want a solution that works in an airplane, in a car. If you can get the ubiquity, regardless of what the access technology is, that’s what we think keeps the network relevant.”
The mind-boggling potential of machine-to-machine (M2M) communications – part of the so-called “Internet of Things” (IoT) – sits at the heart of mobility’s future. There are all kinds of business applications, from retail and transportation to agriculture, utilities and much more. At the heart of that is the network, said Ralph de la Vega, president and CEO of AT&T’s recently combined Mobile and Business Solutions unit.
“We think [IoT] is a huge opportunity. As you move apps to your smartphones or tablets and you have the data that makes those apps run in the cloud, you need a secure M2M connection that is secure all the way to the cloud. To me, that’s the way business is going,” said de la Vega.
Glenn Lurie, CEO of AT&T Mobility, put the future of wireless in perspective: “Everything in our lives is going to be connected. If that’s intimidating, we’ve failed. I don’t care what it is; if it has current running through it, it’s going to be connected.”
As mobility continues to become more and more entrenched in our personal and business lives, the opportunities for solution providers become even greater, the executives noted – pointing out the recent announcement that mobility application programming interfaces (APIs) will be opened up to solution providers in the Partner Exchange program. But as partners undertake the transformation required to successfully sell cloud and other solutions with ties to mobility, they will need to focus on the business value that their customers need.
“Where we’re headed is what’s so exciting,” Lurie said. “The innovation is around everything going mobile. … every person has a device. The question is what problem are they trying to solve … there’s probably no easier conversation to start with any size business is wireless. … The future of business is wireless. The whole concept of growing their businesses [is wireless]. In every single innovation is wireless. You [partners] are in a phenomenal, fun part of the business, which is going to be a wireless business.”
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