The emergence of 3G and 4G networks and smart devices has ignited a revolution in the workplace. Wireless computing and communications has empowered workers to take their offices with them wherever they go. As much as this has enabled businesses to be more productive, it has also sparked more than a few fires for IT departments. Both the benefits and the challenges of business mobility present opportunities for channel partners.
Market Opportunity. More than three-fourths of the U.S. workforce about 120 million people will be mobile by 2013, according to IDC. It comes as no surprise then that U.S. business spending on wireless services will outpace wireline over the next five years, growing from $175.5 billion in 2011 to $260.6 billion by 2016, according to data published in March 2012 by The Insight Research Corp. What’s driving the boost in wireless connections? The evolution of mobile devices to include smartphones and tablets that can support multimedia applications required by a mobile workforce. Next year, 47 percent of enterprises plan to increase their IT budgets for mobile user hardware and 53 percent will boost spend on mobile apps, according to October 2012 data from Yankee Group.
In turn those devices and applications an increasing number of which are employee owned are creating a management and security burden for mobile businesses that presents an opportunity for savvy channel partners. The explosion in mobile device usage also is driving North American enterprises to upgrade their wireless LANs for added coverage and capacity, according to new data from Infonetics Research. The research firm said purchases of wireless access points are expected to grow by 15 percent by 2014.
Industry Predictions. Industry analysts, partners and providers said use of mobile computing and communications among businesses would continue to snowball as more productivity applications are available to mobile workers. They were particularly bullish on cloud-based solutions to the anywhere, anytime access dilemma. However, they also recognized the impact of mobile’s explosive growth namely the strain on operator and corporate networks, employees’ desires to bring their own devices and applications to work, and the complexity of managing and securing the modern mobile environment.
“4G LTE is going to continue to expand its coverage nationwide as well as globally; cloud-based apps will become more prominent in the business marketplace.”
WTG’s Tem Wu
“BYOD will make Wi-Fi and wireless networking a necessity for companies. Businesses will need to solve that issue. They will need to solve the issue of putting video over wireless, ensuring that QoS is more than sufficient.”
Catalyst Telecom’s Mike Ferney
“Mobile integration with hosted PBX systems will also provide seamless connectivity between fixed Wi-Fi and cellular environments, allowing for additional cost reduction.”
TeraNova Consulting Group’s Natasha Royer Coons
Channel Opportunities. Wireless opportunities extend far beyond equipping companies employees with devices and calling plans though that certainly remains an option. Most of our panelists pointed to a more value-added mobility practice that included managing the mobile life cycle, policing BYOD environments and extending applications to mobile devices often via the cloud.
“The integration of wireless, BYOD, mobile applications and cloud-based solutions to the customer’s business will offer channel partners the opportunity to either expand into professional services or increase their professional services revenue.”
“Partners who can build solutions that offer a variety of ways to share voice and data across a range of devices will be busy in 2013. But as you open up the network to new users, ensuring you have the right technologies to protect corporate assets is critical.”
Motorola Solutions’ Juliann Larimer
“Agents can consult with companies on their BYOD policies by leveraging a trusted mobile expert to advise on policy development and implementation. The agent can also sell or resell managed services around order management, fulfillment, help desk, logistics (device and application setup, etc.)”
TeraNova Consulting Group’s Natasha Royer Coons
Channel Challenges. Activating wireless devices has long been a challenge both due to the hyper-competitive marketplace, channel conflict, support requirements and increasingly lower per-device compensation. If they haven’t already, partners must jump from a device-refresh mindset to one that encompasses mobility management, security and support. That’s easier said than done; mobility solutions require resources and skills that must be acquired through training, hiring or partnering.
“Carriers not being friendly with the indirect channel, including protecting large accounts and giving direct sales teams better pricing, remains a challenge.”
Infusion Communications Group’s Marnie Johnson
“Understanding the market and the trends … requires a more strategic approach to selling than may have been required in the past. For those agents who do not fully develop the skills to sell mobility solutions, referral opportunities will be available, but at less overall revenue potential than what the value added resellers will be earning.”
Advantix Solutions Group’s Josh Lipton
“Many of these wireless trends unhook traditional wireline circuits, which have been the lifeblood of the channel for years. Partners will need to find ways to make up the revenue difference by including professional services, cloud-based technologies and mobile applications to increase their revenue per sale.”