article

CARRIER CHANNEL: Ethernet Hype Dampened by Market Realities, Technical Challenges

Posted: 04/2002

E-marketplaces Sell Platform, Tools to Retail, Carrier
Partners
Josh Long

The telecommunications companies that budded as e-marketplaces continue to
market their technology to service providers, IT firms, retailers, media
conglomerates and other organizations with large distribution channels. Many of
these companies also have realized their technology supporting comparison
shopping and ordering is a valuable tool for carriers and their sales
representatives.

To leverage its e-commerce technology, TeleBright Corp. has forged a
partnership with technology products wholesale distributor Ingram Micro Inc.
Ingram Micro distributes products to 175,000 resellers that target businesses
around the world.

"TeleBright has partnered with Ingram Micro to help find the best
telecom services for their small and medium-sized business reseller
customers," spokeswoman Kristie Hughes says. Ingram Micro can offer its
partners a private or co-branded website for telecom services. TeleBright.com
represents more than 60 service providers on its website, where prospects can
shop for telecom services.

But the company — and many of its competitors — is not banking on the
portal as a primary source of revenue. "We are relying heavily on channel
partners to represent that part of the business," Hughes says.

There are many recent examples of companies licensing their technology to
reach a wider base of customers. Among them are Smartprice.com Inc. and
Simplexity Inc., which have forged separate agreements with Yahoo! Finance to
provide access to long distance and wireless services, respectively. "The
online partnerships we have are the main source of our customers .,"
says Smartprice.com spokeswoman Erika Bennett.

In another example, Telezoo.com Corp., an e-marketplace selling high-end
broadband services to the enterprise market, has formed partnerships with media
companies to provide comparison and e-commerce capabilities on the publishing
sites. In December, Telezoo.com announced a partnership with CMP Media LLC.

And, DigiTerra Broadband, a division of DigiTerra, signed a deal with Circuit
City Superstores and through its website www.circuitcity.com
to provide its ordering engine for DSL and cable modem technologies —
BroadbandCompass.

Circuit City customers go to a kiosk where they enter their phone number and
address before DigiTerra Broadband’s software generates available broadband
services in the area, prices, promotions and other features, says DigiTerra
Broadband spokesman Dustin Young.

In December the company also announced an agreement with Imagitas, a
government solutions company, to make BroadbandCompass available through the
U.S. Postal Services’ online change-of-address service, MoversGuide.com.

"We don’t care about brand," says Young, explaining the company’s
strategy entails providing companies the software capabilities to offer
broadband services through retail stores and online stores.

Mountain View, Calif.-based CellMania Inc. has 10 major partners that use the
company’s e-commerce technology, mStore, to offer customers wireless phones and
service plans available throughout the country. Partners include Office Depot,
Circuit City, communications provider Talk America, wireless master agent
American Wireless and Motorola Inc.

Cellmania Inc. co-founder Neerav Berry says that on average one out of 100
people who visit a website for wireless services signs up for a plan.
Consequently, the partners can process many more volumes than Cellmania could on
its own website, although Berry declined to discuss how many orders are placed
on partner websites.

Through its mStore offer, Cellmania can handle activation, billing for the
phone, shipping and returns. But once a partner’s customer begins using the
phone, the service providers Cellania’s e-commerce platform represents manage
the customer service and monthly billing.

Productivity Tools

Cellmania also sells wireless technology to wireless carriers that allow
service providers to offer their customers access to various websites and
applications on WAP- and Java-enabled devices. And the company sells wireless
applications geared towards field service workers such as technicians and sales
representatives.

Cellmania is one of many e-marketplaces that have begun marketing their
applications to service providers. TeleBright also is developing applications
geared toward service providers. The company offers a sales proposal generator
that allows a sales person to gather a quote for a business customer in minutes
rather than days, says TeleBrights Hughes. The service also would prove
useful for a carrier’s direct sales staff or agent representatives.

TeleBright has developed a customer-retention application that allows service
providers to compare plans for a customer and let them know what plan makes the
most sense based on their usage.

OmniChoice, based in Norristown, Pa., also has developed sophisticated
applications geared towards a carrier’s sales representatives. The OmniAdvisor
is a tool that makes recommendations to businesses on what telecom services
would fit their needs, said OmniChoice president and CEO Scott Snyder. For
instance, a sales representative would use the tool to give businesses advice on
Internet capacity, hosting, remote access and other services.

OmniChoice is working on developing a prototype for one of the top three
interexchange carriers, Snyder says. The tool would replace the kind of
intelligence a sales engineer provides to a sales representative, he adds.

The company also has signed an agreement with one of the top three wireless
carriers to provide an online comparison tool that will allow customers to
purchase phones and wireless plans based on usage patterns and preferences, he
says.

Similarly, OmniChoice signed an agreement with a satellite provider to
provide a comparison tool on affiliated retail websites or for call center
representatives. Using the application, a call center representative would be
able to help a customer select satellite products and plans, Snyder explains.

He and others say the sales cycle for selling software is a long one, but
such technology companies claim they are on the right track after de-emphasizing
or eliminating their business-to-consumer operation. OmniChoice shut down its
e-commerce operation that marketed telecom services directly to consumers last
fall.


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