Vodafone says a scheduled review after more than half a year of IT channel business has revealed a need for a fuller resale product range and longer-term data plan contracts.
“We started with a small range for resellers but customers are asking them for a wider range, which they have to have, to be competitive,” says sales and marketing manager Hamish Switalla.
He says resellers have asked for 12- to 36-month contracts across the board of products.
Vodafone has introduced its data channel programme in 11 countries, and it was launched here in October last year. Switalla says about 230 New Zealand channel partners were signed before Christmas, and about 20 have been added since. However, he says active recruiting has stopped now the initial base has been established, and the review is expected to finish by mid-June.
“It’s a time for consolidation,” Switalla says. “The review is about finding out which parts of the programme aren’t working and making sure we address those, and about pushing the parts that are.”
Managing director of Blenheim reseller 1Call, Peter Johnstone, says commission payments were “a little bit slow” in the early stages of the programme, but have been on time since about February.
He says the programme has been positive overall, and has allowed them to integrate Vodafone’s products into existing offerings. He cites the example of providing smartphones with exchange servers.
Auckland-based Gulf Networks, which joined the channel programme when it was launched, says it has successfully sold data cards and mobile connection plans. It also sees potential for more voice transmission offerings.
“We’ve always seen the future in mobility, that’s why we signed up,” says director Uli Knapp. “I would say the programme has been successful. I’m not sure if that translates to volume because I don’t know, but a number of our clients have made use of the technology.”
Switalla says Vodafone’s Mobile Connect (VMC) data card and software system has really taken off through the channel, and says notebook resellers can make margins of 20–30% by offering it.
He says the build standard VMC offering is a forerunner to 3G embedded notebooks, and says the latter could attract the same margins as they enter the market here.
Kurt Stunzner, Vodafone business manager at the programme’s distributor Ingram Micro, says a $100 drop in the price of the 1GB data plan has stimulated resellers’ uptake of mobile connect cards and made it easier for the resellers to sell notebooks at a higher margin.
Switalla says New Zealand leads Vodafone’s global data channel programme per capita and ranks sixth by sales volume.
Packed-out monthly education sessions for New Zealand data channel partners reflect both enthusiasm for the programme and the enormity of the training challenge, he says.
“It’s a massive task to educate them because the products are a little different to what they’ve traditionally been able to offer. Having the connection and the network is a big change.
“There’s also a vast variety of resellers that have different skill sets.”
Stunzner agrees the channel is still learning about reselling Vodafone’s range.
“The margin comes by getting the rebate from Vodafone through making that [network] connection. The channel’s just realising how it works.”
Switalla says the channel will also need to be trained for the introduction of high-speed downlink packet access (HSDPA) to Vodafone’s network, which allows faster download speeds.
Until the end of June, he says Vodafone is offering its registered, certified and premium mobile connect card reseller firms a one-in-100 chance to win a million dollars.