Voda and O2 step up B2B fight


Vodafone and O2 are gearing up for a power struggle in the UK business market, as Vodafone enterprise director Peter Kelly’s (pictured left) delayed overhaul of Vodafone’s indirect channel last week took shape and O2’s business sales team, led by Ben Dowd (pictured right), continued its relentless drive for SME share.

Vodafone last week elevated Yes Telecom’s entire dealer business to ‘Gold Partner’ status, and is understood to be set to put in place a bespoke commission programme that will see dealers take as much as 50 per cent in ongoing revenue share.

O2, meanwhile, has launched a new unified communications solution for the dealer market, called ‘Fixed Line Anywhere’, which enables businesses to run all their office telephony communications across the O2 network and retain both a mobile and a geographic number.

The service is believed to be a re-branded version of the mobile telephony system by GoHello. Neither O2 nor GoHello would confirm a partnership, but the latter said in March it was switching from third-party sales to a network-backed model.

The launch, which O2 briefed indirect partners on last week, follows Vodafone’s unified communications proposition for the corporate sector, ‘Vodafone One’, which it will sell direct. Vodafone said a version for the dealer market will be made available later in the year, via Yes Telecom.

Its review of Yes Telecom, which has failed to hit internal targets for most of 2009, will be finalised in October, when its 40 best-performing dealers over the intervening period will be invited to join its Gold Partner scheme on a permanent basis, and to take revised Gold Partner benefits.

Vodafone is dangling a carrot in the meantime, in the form of an extra £40 for new sharer connections, an extra £20 on 500MB BES bolt-ons, and an additional £20 bonus on sale of two-year mobile broadband packages. Dealers will also get an extra £15 for each new account with £45-£50 ARPU.

Vodafone is also preparing a revised dealer revenue share programme, the terms of which will be negotiable. Yes Telecom’s top-level strategic partners  (including Phonebox Communications, Sprint Communications and Wish Communications) are already running bespoke revenue share models. But Vodafone is looking at 45-50 per cent ongoing share, up from between present Yes Telecom models of between three and 12 per cent.

Vodafone’s Kelly said: “There is an ever-changing landscape of investment in indirect partners and customers…It is really important we weed out the value in all of these things.”

Vodafone has lost significant share to O2 in the business market recently, although it said last week its corporate share was 55 per cent and it had picked up Lloyds Banking Group supply from O2 and also retained its Office of Government Commerce (OGC) contract for a further two years, covering over 100,000 mobile phone users.

But O2 last week was carrying forward its own relentless reshaping of the indirect SME channel, with its Fixed Number Anywhere service as well as a range of new SoHo packages and the opening of a new training facility for indirect partners.

Its new O2 ‘My Business’ tariffs afford customers with up to three handsets an extra 500-700 minutes for use across all lines. In addition, customers can choose either unlimited free internet and email on compatible handsets, including BlackBerry devices.

Its new Partner Academy in Northampton provides a newly extended sales development programme for Centre of Excellence partners.

O2 head of SME sales David Plumb said: “Building on the internal O2 Sales Academy, the O2 Partner Academy extends our expertise to partners. We hope that being involved in the Academy will help our partners win profitable new business and ensure they are strong leaders in the market place. We are confident that we will continue to attract the best partners in the business.”

O2 said SME sales from indirect partners increased 25 per cent last year.