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Partner Channel Headlines: Value-Added Revenue In the Air

Posted: 03/2002

PARTNER CHANNEL

Value-Added Revenue In the Air

By Khali Henderson

During the past six months many of the country’s premiere wireless carriers have rolled out wireless messaging services targeted to the mobile workforce — witness Sprint PCS’ January debut of Sprint PCS Business Connection Personal Edition by SEVEN and VoiceStream’s late fall rollout of iStream WirelessInbox by
ViAir.

Forty-eight million workers have jobs that require time away from the office, according to the Insight Research Corp. The increasing mobility of the U.S. workforce, and the availability of wireless devices to link workers with corporate applications will drive demand for wireless data services, the research firm reports, which estimates 27 percent of all wireless business revenue will come from wireless data services by 2006.

Although there are several types of messaging services, from short messaging to instant messaging, the in-demand application is e-mail access. “Access to corporate e-mail while away from the desktop environment is becoming increasingly critical — moving from ‘nice to have’ to need to have for many enterprises,” according to a January 2002 report from The Yankee Group.

This growing opportunity is not only for wireless carriers, however. Some of the same platform vendors powering carrier solutions also make them available to indirect channels — VARs, systems integrators and telephony sales agents — for sale directly to enterprises and small and medium businesses.

Since many of the platforms are network- and device-independent, wireless e-mail service can be bundled with a mobile telephony service package the partner already offers, or it can be sold as a stand-alone. Vendors say that with a little more effort and integration expertise, partners can use their platforms to wireless-enable other corporate software applications such as contact managers or accounting programs.

“We provide simple software in a hosted or premise environment to enable software applications on browser-based phones,” explains Allan Carter, marketing director for mobile services for Captaris Inc.

Launched in spring 2001, Captaris’ Infinite Mobile Delivery Server extends the reach of corporate e-mail systems, such as Microsoft Exchange and Lotus Notes, as well as ISP e-mail systems to mobile devices. It acts as an e-mail client proxy providing users with a view into their mailboxes designed for the small displays and bandwidth constraints of wireless environments. Through this proxy, users interact directly with their mailboxes, performing all of the standard actions such as reading, replying to, forwarding and deleting messages.

The Infinite Mobile Delivery Server supports small business environments of less than 50 users to larger corporate environments with thousands of users. (It also scales to carrier-class and portal systems supporting millions of users in environments with fault tolerant requirements. British Telecom, for example, uses the Captaris platform with its Genie Internet services.) Remote wireless users connect to the Infinite Mobile Delivery Server for direct access to their underlying mailbox, eliminating the synchronization problems inherent with other solutions that use a separate wireless mailbox. Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) and Wireless Transport Layer Security (WTLS) protocols are used to ensure secure access.

Carter says its Captaris-branded product is an ideal value-added service for telephony equipment resellers, VARs, integrators, telephony resellers and agents. The e-mail package is out of the box, Carter says and explains data applications usually require integration with back-end systems. Channel partners earn a commission off the sales based on their annual revenue commitment; support and margins vary by level. For examples, the list price for a 25-user wireless e-mail license is $7,000, Carter says. Wireless-enabling database-oriented applications adds another $2,000 not including integration fees. Partners can contract with Captaris’ professional services group to perform the integration, but Carter says typically its partners learn to do it to increase their profit.

Another platform provider, Air2Web does not sell a self-branded product, but establishes OEM agreements with partners, such as carriers or systems integrators. The Air2Web Mobile Internet Platform is carrier and device independent, and it offers its resellers private branding on the device. In December 2001, Air2Web announced such an agreement with BellSouth to provide its customers with mobile access to applications and enterprise data through the Bell company’s ePlatform infrastructure.

Through the alliance, BellSouth will provide remote access to e-mail as well as inventory levels, sales data, shipping status, stock quotes, travel systems, weather forecasts and other information. BellSouth will use Air2Web’s DevCenter, an online development environment, to support custom wireless-enablement applications.

BellSouth’s director of wireless applications, Alan Clark, told PHONE+ the company expects to use its agent channel — a mixed bag of some 600 VARs, systems integrators and telephony agents — to sell the Air2Web capabilities under the BellSouth Mobile Internet Services’ Business To Go banner.

“My intent is to encourage them to use the platform and development environment,” he says. “We also will have more packaged applications, such as e-mail.”

The company had planned to begin selling the Business To Go service through its direct sales force in mid-February with agents coming on board by the end of first quarter. In a mid-January interview, Clark said the pricing structure was still being worked out, but he expected agents to earn monthly recurring commissions per subscriber for e-mail packages sold and a combination of one-time fees and commissions for custom work.

While there is a potential tie-in with Cingular Wireless, the jointly owned mobile unit of BellSouth and SBC Communications will be formalized later this year.

Clark says the interesting part of

the Air2web offer is “we let the end customer decide what end transport they need. We didn’t want to dictate the equipment or wireless service. We support any of them.”


Access Devices Chart

Source: BellSouth Corp. (www.bellsouth.com)


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