BT's reseller arm and Nortel are to work together to sell converged voice and data products - a move that could bring them into conflict with the channel. VARs have warned that BT's Business Information Systems (BIS) will have an unfair advantage.
Nortel and BT have worked together for 12 years on joint communications products, which have been sold through BIS. As a result there is a huge customer base to approach for convergence upgrades.
"BIS and Nortel have a strong joint installed base and we are now looking at how we can increase convergence at existing customers," said Mick Hegarty, head of marketing at BIS. He added that BIS will also be targeting new customers.
Peter Kelly, president of enterprise EMEA at Nortel, said the relationship with BT will "create healthy competition among partners". Resellers with particular skills could be involved in certain deals, he added.
Despite the dominance of BT in Nortel's channel, Kelly denied that resellers would be squeezed out. "The convergence market is big and there is room for other suppliers," he said.
However, BT's resellers are unconvinced. "BIS will have an unfair advantage because it will be buying direct from BT," said one VAR. "Also, BT and Nortel work through the channel, so BIS will have an insight into how other resellers are selling the product."
BT and Nortel's installed PBX base is massive, and if resellers are not involved in voice and data convergence upgrades they could miss out, the VAR added.
Phil Kennerdell, senior sales consultant at Abtec Network Systems, said BT would have difficulty competing with the channel on convergence. "BT has been trying unsuccessfully to do convergence for years. I know this because I have had to pick up some of the mess it has left," he said.
However, sources have said there are still talks going on at BT regarding the sale of these converged solutions. John Thornhill, general manager at BT Indirect Channels, said he was in discussions with BIS to get resellers involved in the product sales. "We are looking at how we can increase BIS and Nortel product sales by engaging resellers," he said.
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