Never before has the voice and data channel witnessed so many changes. The increase in convergence between voice and data technologies, and how best to handle this, has been vital to the success and survival of VARs within the sector.
Many vendors have set up their stakes in both the voice and data fields to ensure they are well positioned for the sweeping changes in the channel. Only last month, IBM struck a deal with 3Com as part of Big Blue’s first steps into IP telephony (CRN, 10 April); eBay has snapped up internet telephony provider Skype; Tesco has moved into voice over IP (VoIP) (CRN, 27 January); Microsoft acquired service provider Teleo (CRN, 5 September, 2005) and BT has pledged £10bn to its IP-only 21st century network. There is little doubt that the next five to 10 years will be the most captivating and crucial that the communications industry will have ever seen.
Resellers looking for an insight into future opportunities in the convergence sector would be well advised to clear the dates 10 and 11 May to attend the Comms Channel Expo (CCE) show at Birmingham’s NEC.
The show, now in its ninth year, was visited by more than 2,800 attendees last year and will give an opportunity for resellers to rub shoulders with vendors such as Alcatel, BT, Cisco, Ericsson, Hewlett-Packard, Verizon Business, Vodafone, AT&T, NEC and Orange, to name but a few.
Sweetening the offer for visitors is also the prospect of the Computer Trade Show, Technology Retailer Show and the Office Technology Expo, which will all run alongside CCE. Last year alone, more than 8,000 visited the combined computer technology shows.
Being a trade-only show, the 60-plus exhibitors at CCE will have the platform to showcase their company’s set-up and direction to a concentrated channel audience. It also gives resellers the opportunity to find out more about some of the comms channel’s newest players and the prospects on offer.
Scott Dobson, managing director of distributor Vcomm, said: “We have launched our hosted IP communications platform called Worksmart and will push this at the show. We are looking to recruit 75 channel partners in the next 12 months and we are also giving away 500 PBXs to resellers that sign up at the show.
“This is our first time at CCE, but there is no data show as such for the channel. The attendees and exhibitors are a mix of competitors and partners. It really attracts the voice and data VAR community.”
Jim Robertson, sales manager of distributor MTV Telecom, which is exhibiting in conjunction with VoIP software vendor partner Swyx, said: “We have participated in the show on and off for the past seven or eight years. You might not necessarily take part if you don’t have anything particular to shout about. However, this year we definitely have something to shout about.”
Robertson said MTV has been working with Swyx for the past six to seven months. At the show MTV will be assisting in the new Swyx product launch to attract data-centric VARs.
Stuart Noad, director of corporate marketing at Swyx, said: “We are launching a new version of our product. We have been geared to the SME market, but the new release crosses all segments, from consumer to SME and enterprises.”
Noad said Swyx wants to converse with new resellers to take on the product, while receiving general feedback on the release.
“We were at the event last year and we normally go with a distributor,” he said. “We see Comms Channel Expo as the key event for the channel and the industry.”
The show is also an opportunity for new names in the UK to showcase what they can offer as the vendor market becomes increasingly fragmented and competitive. One such vendor is German-based VoIP provider Funkwerk. It hopes CCE will provide it with the podium needed to propel its UK channel charge.
Morris Becker, international sales manager of Funkwerk, said: “Our motivation in attending the show is to raise brand awareness, which is not that high in the UK. We also want to recruit new resellers.”
Becker said Funkwerk has 150 active UK resellers and wants to double that figure over the next 12 months.
“We had discussions with resellers who said in terms of the telecoms market, CCE is the most relevant event,” he said. “We want telecoms dealers and installers that sell to the business market and the SME segment.”
Becker added the talk of the show is likely to be VoIP and the benefits it can offer.
Another name looking for an awareness boost in the channel is broadband provider Griffin Internet.
Cherie Everett, marketing manager of Griffin, said: “We hope to achieve a lot from the show and want to introduce Griffin to the channel. We are known as a white-label firm, but want to raise our own brand awareness.
“It is the first year at the show for Griffin and we are attending as it’s definitely one of the bigger channel shows. It’s very popular with voice and data resellers and ISPs.”
Everett said Griffin is keen to showcase its new products, such as its Managed Online Provisioning System, which enables resellers to order broadband with lower costs.
“The show has some good sponsors and the attendees are our target audience,” she said. “Companies are worried about people not attending face-to-face conferences anymore, but I don’t think this is the case.”
Lesley Hansen, marketing director of hosted VoIP services provider TeleWare, said: “We recruited five new partners from last year’s event and they have done well for us. We want to recruit more resellers at the show this year. Last year we attended because we needed more channel partners, and this year we originally said we weren’t going to exhibit, but our resellers wanted to see us there. It was demand driven.”
Hansen added that the show is ideal for firms in channel recruitment mode and last year gave TeleWare the opportunity to perform live demos of its hosted services.
Rob Mackinnon, product manager UK and Ireland at ZyXEL, said the networking vendor attended the show last year and this time will be looking to recruit further resellers to its partner programme.
“We will have a lot of feet on the ground to build awareness of our partner programme,” he said. “It is important that we recruit quality resellers from the event.
“We were less prepared last year in terms of the partner programme, but we are ready for this year,” he added. “Our product portfolio will continue to increase during the year. There will definitely be more VoIP products on the way.”
Matthew Gimlette, commercial director at comms vendor Timico, said: “CCE is an important show for Timico. Our attendance will enable us to reach a wide audience of decision makers from the indirect channel and our job will be to ensure they learn about the Timico converged communications.”
Iain Shearman, sales director at comms integrator Affiniti Partner Services, said he will use the show as a platform to stress the importance of IP to resellers.
“IP has been the subject of a lot of hype, but there is no doubt that it is beginning to have a serious impact on the channel,” he said. “Resellers that stick their heads in the sand and ignore it will find that they won’t have a business in a few years.”
All exhibitors seem optimistic about the show’s access to the audience they need. VoIP and channel recruitment seem to top the list of priorities for vendors and distributors. Resellers will receive a glut of information and opportunity at the show, as well as a clear indication of how the fast moving voice and data channel is shaping up in 2006.
Affiniti (0800) 138 6000
Griffin Internet (0870) 804 0804
MTV Telecom (01784) 740 000
Vcomm (01635) 232 430
ZyXEL Communications UK (01344) 303 044
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