Cutting Room: Who needs dealers more, T-Mobile or O2?


The difference between O2’s approach to the dealer channel, and T-Mobile’s? The fact T-Mobile needs the broader dealer market more than O2.

There are a number of reasons for this: it doesn’t have the retail footprint of O2, it doesn’t have the consumer base, and it doesn’t have the business base.

T-Mobile is in a volume growth phase still. Yes, it has the same contemporary concerns about quality of connections, about selling data and hiking ARPU. But it has fewer customers and fewer shops, and therefore requires the expensive and unreliable old dealer channel more than O2.

Which is why its approach to revenue share has been more open, perhaps, and its initial commercials appear less troublesome for dealers used to 100 per cent upfront payments. O2 would shrug, ultimately. Its channel strategy is working, and the dealers it has cheesed off are of no real concern to it anyway.

You can’t argue with the numbers it is touting (page 6), and its move to hand 100,000 business lines to its close dealer partners as a goodwill gesture is a real shout-out for independent connections.

Of course, its talk of total appreciation for the channel and all that it does is entirely relative. O2 has cut its own part from the wider dealer market. That is what it considers now to be the indirect ‘channel’.

Everything outside of that is worthless to it.

T-Mobile has been uncharacteristically open about its move towards a revenue share.

It is strange because openness and shared information is an O2 trait, really. T-Mobile is better known for being mysterious and frustratingly quiet. Its four-month lead-in time to an April revenue share launch is deliberately contradictory to O2’s way. It will also likely be trumped by an earlier version of revenue share from Orange, at the very least.

Despite entirely reasonable criticisms of it, O2 has once again led the market. It is a complex mind-shift for the channel and so some of the criticism should be seen in that context. Some should also be viewed as the vexations of large swathes of dealers O2 really stopped working with a long time ago.

The rest, the suddeness and strictness of its manner, are pretty low.
T-Mobile – whatever its dealer base really is these days, after it cut huge numbers a couple of months ago – should be applauded for its stance. Although, its motives are unclear, as ever.