Can Partners Benefit From Managed Mobility Services?

FOR MONTHS NOW, THERES BEEN lots of talk about managed mobility services. Service providers are investing time and dollars trying to figure out how to help business customers manage a growing number of mobile devices and tap into a new, potentially large source of revenue. So, as a channel partner, the big question to ask is: What do I have to gain from this growing market opportunity? Since no provider has been able deploy a provideragnostic managed mobility service on a fullscale basis, the potential role for partners could be quite large, particularly for those targeting SMBs.

But, before we explore this channel connection to managed mobility services, lets look at who wants these services in the first place. In a recent study by Compass Intelligence encompassing more than 1,600 respondents representing businesses of all sizes, 29 percent indicated they would seriously consider purchasing managed mobility services, where a provider would manage all the handsets/mobile devices in their company for a fee, if these services were offered by a well-known provider for a reasonable price. So, while most operators target managed mobility services to large companies due to their scale and accompanying management requirements, there is a greater market opportunity. In fact, there are more wireless users in the small and SOHO business markets than in the enterprise, and a good percentage of smaller customers surveyed by Compass Intelligence indicated demand for managed mobility services (see chart, Demand for Managed Mobility Services).

As expected, demand for these services is lowest among SOHO businesses by virtue of their relatively small number of devices, plans and providers. However, small businesses, which represent nearly half of all wireless voice revenue paid by business customers, show slightly higher than average demand. In addition, smaller customers may present a more immediate opportunity since they are more likely to have concentrated their wireless subscribers with one provider, enabling that provider to more easily offer managed mobility services. Providers that today can only deliver a managed mobility solution for their own customers (and not across providers) might be able to tap into the small business market before they can effectively tap into the enterprise market.

Respondents indicated they would seriously consider purchasing managed mobility services if offered by a well-known provider at a reasonable price.

Source: Compass Intelligence, 2006

The opportunity for partners in this market is a bigger solution sale that has managed mobility as a component. By working in partnership with service providers, partners can develop new mobility-related revenue streams on top of generic managed mobility services offered by wireless providers. And, since small businesses tend to have one provider, it will be easier to build such solutions by targeting this market first. More importantly, a partners ability to develop a meaningful mobility-based business in the small business market only will grow with time, as service providers are unlikely to compete directly with partners targeting smaller business. This is not true for partners targeting larger companies, since mobile operators already have acquired consulting businesses to help them tap into the solutions business for the enterprise.

So, that leaves the SMB markets ripe for the picking. The truth is that service providers are not well-suited to sell anything more complicated than DSL into this massive market. Therefore, it is likely that service providers will employ channel partners to push a variety of mobility and data-related services in the SMB markets.

So, back to the original question, what do channel partners have to gain? For starters, a new service-oriented revenue stream. In the longer term, they can build an entire business on designing mobility-related business processes and applications for SMBs. And service providers will make this increasingly easier for them in the coming year or two as they open up their mobility frameworks and develop more attractive commission structures for channel partners.

What do customers want? When looking at the survey results, it seems offering managed mobility services may prove to be a good way to increase APRU and reduce churn. However, it is less effective as a strategy for luring customers from competitors. Of the 233 respondents that ranked managed mobility services as the managed service they were most likely to purchase, nearly 40 percent indicated they would increase spending with the provider that offered it to them, making this one of the most commonly cited impacts. Less than one-third said theyd switch providers to buy managed mobility services. Similar results were found for other mobility-related services, suggesting providers have the advantage when it comes to marketing managed mobility services or other wireless services to their current base of customers.

That means channel partners, which will play a role in the sale and execution of orders for more complex services such as this, will benefit from working in partnership with more than one provider. Actually, partners have a lot of flexibility here. They can work with several providers as agents with an emphasis on order execution and support for customers acquired by the carrier. Or, partners can focus on building solutions and actually bring business to providers and earn a commission. This opportunity is so interesting you can take it in whichever direction works best for your business.

Kneko Burney is president of Compass Intelligence, a decision analytics research and consulting firm. She can be reached at

Compass Intelligence

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