Vodafone sets out lead and realities of new UC market

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Parallel distribution channels have “no god-given right” to sell mobile-centric unified communications, says Vodafone

Vodafone claimed last week its unified communications products are better featured and better grounded than products and initiatives from O2 and Orange.

It also said resellers in IT and fixed line markets could not just expect a pass to sell its products, and that they are required to adapt if they wish to be accredited to sell them.

UK enterprise marketing director Peter Boucher (pictured) told Mobile News: “The history of those channels selling mobile is not good. On paper, it looks like a perfect fit, but they have to change, just as this channel has been required to.

“The IT and fixed line channels do not have a god-given right to sell these solutions. They must show themselves to be flexible and adapatable also.”

Boucher said of the emerging convergence market, which has already seen new focus from O2 and Orange in 2011, that competition will intensify.

He observed BT is to be a contender in the sector also. But he dismissed key rivals’ propositions and strategies, specifically Orange’s Pocket Landline product and O2’s joint venture with IT firm 2e2.

He said: “Pocket Landline looks like a decent proposition on the face of it, in that 1-10 [seat B2B] market. But we cover that too with OneNet Express, and we go into much more depth – ours is a more profound and complicated proposition.

“In the case of OneNet, it requires full replacement of a company’s telephony. And we are hitting the market now. It is unclear precisely what Orange’s channel is. There is a question for it about its channel. We have been at this for a year.”

He said of O2’s initiative with IT provider 2e2 on systems integration that Vodafone had deliberately sidestepped a joint-venture approach when it purchased Burton firm Central Telecom in late 2008. “O2’s approach is interesting. We deliberately chose not to take that path. Our customers wanted a more tightly integrated proposition.”

Boucher said: “We’re all going after this market, but we have prepared well. Our proposition is a like an iceberg, where there is a lot going on and money invested below the water line. Ours has a richer feature set; we have set about lead generation, marketing, and preperation of our partner base. We’re not complacent, but we’re glad we started early.”

Boucher said of the various sales channels looking to step into the market, Vodafone had looked after its own first.

“We’ve prioritised existing partners, those with us for years. But it is a long journey and these solutions will appeal to varied markets. The temptation is to go in different directions early on. But we require clear focus, and we want anyway to work with partners we know and understand.

“We are taking over customers’ entire telephony estates. It requires sensational trust in and reliability from providers. You know, the whole ecosystem used to be built on a common standard – basically pairing a Nokia handset with a Vodafone SIM, say. It is not like that now; partners have to move on.”

Vodafone targets 175k OneNet users by 2015

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