2014 predictions: Airtime distributors

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Carphone Warehouse Business head of B2B Bob Sweetlove, Daisy Distribution MD Dave McGinn and Mainline Digital Communications MD Andrew Boden look ahead to the next 12 months 

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Bob Sweetlove – head of B2B, Carphone Warehouse Business

Against an improving economic backdrop in 2014, business customers should start to gravitate faster towards the best solutions for their business efficiency and communications. They will have increased confidence to make some bold decisions around their digital infrastructure. Ever-faster mobile data networks and more mature business mobile applications are now making cloud-based services on smartphones and tablets viable for most businesses. Therefore, digitally-connected  businesses are seeing the benefits in their own customer relationships and will signal this more clearly to the masses.

In the mobile channel we need to leverage this building advantage we now have versus some of the  more traditional fixed and IT products and services. As the mobile networks start to roll out fixed and IT services on their bills, it will become simpler for businesses to consolidate these utilities and partners to benefit. Where we have already seen some of the pioneering mobile partners already  tackle this, I would expect a wider converged push in 2014. There will be further consolidation in the channel and a robust defence of traditional solutions from the fixed line and IT resellers.

As mobile data demand increases, I would also expect to see more technical issues with the networks as they continue to invest in capacity. You would expect the power alliances of Nokia/Microsoft and Motorola/Google to gain market share through a combination of sheer weight of presence coupled with attractive business hardware and software solutions.

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Dave McGinn – MD, Daisy Distribution

As the mobile sector continues in its latest evolution,  manufacturers are beginning to develop devices that come equipped with greater functionality and services that naturally support the networks’ drive towards converged and unified communications.

Microsoft Office 365, available through Windows Phone devices, is one such product that bridges the gap between manufacturer and network. This will be a key cornerstone of the networks’ 2014 strategy of developing multiple engagements with their SME customer base.

This trend is set to extend with additional cloud services and other ICT applications, initially adopted by the networks’ direct sales teams, now cascading into the channel.

That being said, I also envisage 2014 could be a remarkable year for the industry in terms of device developments. The next big thing in terms of technology will be “wearable” devices. While there will be an increase in innovative, flexible smartphones that hit the market, the devices that will inevitably catch the eye will be Google Glass, smart watches, smart rings and even smart clothing. These eye-catching products will really entice consumer customers to part with their money. However, it’s crucial that manufacturers ensure that they also have genuine business benefits, ensuring the technology receives widespread adoption.

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Andrew Boden – MD, Mainline Digital Communications

2014 is going to be a 4G year with the networks competing to attract subscribers to their rapidly expanding high-speed networks. The networks’ activity is certain to increase enquiries for well-established resellers.

Good distributors will be launching marketing programmes and tools to help their partners benefit from the growing interest in the benefits of faster connections.

Trends seen in 2013 are likely to continue into 2014. For example, SIM-only airtime contracts will increase in popularity as more employers permit and even encourage staff to “bring your own device”.

The demand for 4G data-only SIMs will also continue to rise as more mobile solutions are brought to market. To succeed in this arena, resellers will have to become more targeted in their approach to the business market – identifying the likely requirements of different-sized businesses in different sectors. Investing in developing the consultative selling skills of sales teams might also be necessary.
The roll out of new technology is often problematic and, given everybody’s increasing reliance on 24/7 connectivity, customers are increasingly intolerant of disruption and slow problem solving.

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