Agents Selling Cellular Broadband Cards as Backup DIA

By Dan Baldwin, director of sales, ATEL Communications Inc.

Our in-house telemarketer brought me what seemed to be a decent lead a construction company supervisor needed help getting dedicated Internet access (DIA) to a construction trailer where the local RBOC claimed DSL was unavailable. I looked up the construction company on the Internet and they seemed like a decent opportunity as they appeared to have a couple dozen employees or more. I figured I could impress them by solving their construction trailer problem enough to get them to pony up their phone bills for their main office.

The construction trailer in question was only a 10-minute drive away so I hopped in the car to have a look. As I walked around the trailer two problems became immediately apparent there was real no address (the trailer was literally on an empty dirt lot) and the trailer was on a military base. (I quickly became concerned that I was wasting my time.)

Back in my office I called an old friend, Dave Glendenning, ATEL’s “go to guy” for anything we needed from “the new AT&T. Dave made a few quick calls and confirmed that the trailer was indeed not going to get DSL from AT&T anytime soon. (So much for a quick victory through my “special relationship” with AT&T through Dave.)

I briefly considered recommending fixed-wireless Internet to my construction foreman prospect but my gut feeling was that he had a DSL budget firmly fixed in his mind and would not seriously consider any DIA solution north of a hundred bucks a month. (I was starting to get that time-wasting stomach ache again.) That’s when Dave said, “Hey, why don’t we show the guy one of these new EVDO ‘black boxes’ that convert a cellular broadband card into a portable wireless network? I had considered that but had not heard that any of the black boxes that convert the EVDO cards into a wireless network had made it past the beta testing stage. “Indeed they have,” Dave proclaimed. “I have one on my desk. Let’s call the guy and set up a demo.”

Agony & Ecstasy of “the Demo”

I really ought to have my head examined. Control freaks like me on 100-percent commission should not trust others to demo new-fangled black boxes to their hard-found prospects. But hey, the cure for being a control freak is to let others do what they say they can do, right?

At the appointed time, I met Dave and my prospect at the construction trailer. In less than 10 minutes Dave had the black box powered up and his cellular EVDO card plugged in. Like magic Dave propagated a wireless Internet connection for anyone in the trailer to use and to prove it he decided to show the prospect the Web site of the prospect’s choosing right after he remembered the password he’d created a couple of months ago to block unauthorized access to the black box wireless network.

Dave proved the cellular broadband DIA concept to the prospect in the first 10 minutes of the demo the black box did indeed create a wireless network from a cellular EVDO laptop card. For the next 30 minutes, as we tried to guess the password to the wireless network, we discussed how secure the solution was (a little too secure for our demo) and about how this was the perfect solution for construction trailers as it would save them hundreds if not thousands of dollars a year by allowing them to avoid the costs of ordering and installing temporary wired DSL or cable Internet connections to their temporary construction trailers.

Better Things to do

After about 30 minutes of “new telecom happy talk, all three of us realized that we probably had better things we could be doing. Standing around staring at the wireless network password prompt on Dave’s laptop wasn’t generating revenue for anyone. Suddenly in a hurry to get on to other things, the prospect invited us to return when we had the password working and half promised to introduce me to the person in the main office that controlled the construction company’s phone bills.

Back at the office I did a bit of Internet searching and quickly discovered that we had demonstrated a solution that really was up and coming. Of course Dave remembered the password as soon as he got back to his office. I’ve been trying to get a follow-up appointment with the prospect ever since, without a call back. I feel like I’ve been on the equivalent of a “telecom one night stand.

Determined to generate some value in return for the several hours invested trying to impress my construction company prospect, I created a Web page from all the cellular broadband DIA research and posted it on the ATEL customer web site for carrier services at  

Cost Benefit Analysis

At just $50 on a $300 piece of gear, Dave said the margin on the gear doesn’t come close to justifying any sort of serious marketing of the demonstrated solution. (An exception might be for wireless distributors that have found a way to live off the $300 one-time pops they earn on a new wireless activation.) Dave and I were kind of new to this going in but figured it was a cool way to spend a couple hours on a gorgeous sunny San Diego morning getting a bit of fresh air and doing a little missionary work for a new telecom application.

The real win here is the capture and redistribution of content to ATEL prospects and customers. I may or may not ever win the construction company’s main phone service but at least I’ll be able to continue to claim the title of “smartest telecom guy they know” to all of ATEL’s customers and prospects and evidencing that by pointing them to the Web page I made at  

Dan Baldwin, founder of TelecomAssociation, is Director of Sales at ATEL Communications Inc. Founded in 1985, ATEL is the largest NEC telephone equipment dealer in Southern California. Dan works with ATEL’s carrier services division that acts as an in-house telecom master agency to sell network services to ATEL’s embedded base of 2,000 phone equipment customers. For more information about ATEL’s carrier services division please visit  

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