Telecom Wireless Market Leaving Money On The Table

Telecom Wireless Market Leaving Money On The Table

Telecom Wireless Market

Solution providers with telecom businesses have made good money in selling wireline, but trying to turn a profit from wireless sales was historically a different story. As business needs evolve, it might be time for partners to take another look at wireless offerings.

In the beginning, solution providers tapping into wireless sales were just activating phones in a one-time commission model, which wasn’t very profitable. The sheer number of wireless plans from each of the carriers is also hard for solution providers to keep up with and understand completely, said Natasha Royer Coons, managing director of TeraNova Consulting Group Inc., a San Diego, Calif.- based firm that manages and supports mobile and fixed technology solutions for end customers.

“The commission wasn’t that much, considering how much work it takes to support phones, so the agents were just running from it. [Solution providers] would try it once and get burned so bad that they never wanted to touch it again, especially when they could sell a wireline network and take a residual,” Coons said.

Demand for wireless mobility increases

But as demand for wireless mobility increases, solution providers are starting to reconsider leaving wireless on the table.

TeraNova Consulting specializes in building wireless networks to replace wireline and telecom expense management solutions. The provider’s approach to telecom billing includes wireless billing. Cost allocations are broken out on the TeraNova platform for partners, and TeraNova supports wireless plans from the four major domestic carriers: Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile. The platform can also support some international carriers, like Vodafone, too, Coons said.

“Everything in the platform is optimized and managed because the wireless plans change so rapidly that IT just can’t keep on top of it — they have too much on their plates, so we can do that for them. We have a whole team that keeps on top of all the [wireless] plans,” she said.

In addition to making wireless easier to understand for partners, this platform has also created a way to turn the once one-time payment associated with wireless into a monthly recurring revenue stream, Coons said.

“I build a business around creating a residual revenue component to wireless,” she added.

The only wireless company

TeraNova isn’t the only company that has identified wireless as an opportunity for partners.

Berkeley, Calif.-based DataXoom, a provider that focuses on mobility solutions, is now extending its internal billing platform to its partners so these solution providers can monetize mobility and earn recurring revenue on these plans in a similar fashion.

With the help of DataXoom, these partners can offer mobile plans from three of the largest carriers — Verizon, AT&T and Sprint — to their end customers. The program will give partners access to simplified multi-carrier engagements, deal registrations and billing on one platform, said Rob Chamberlin, DataXoom’s co-founder and executive vice president, in an interview with CRN.

Because solution providers don’t work for the carrier, partners are in a great position to broker even better wireless deals for customers. They also can bring their telecom management expertise to the table, TeraNova’s Coons said.

While wireless sales don’t account for much of a solution provider’s revenue today — a very small percentage, if any, Coons said — she believes that this number will be growing over the next few years. Coons sees wireless as potentially becoming 25 percent to 30 percent of a telecom partner’s revenue mix should these providers take advantage of the opportunity.

“Partners don’t have to force change, they can manage the ongoing support, and they’ll have the residual revenue. … [Wireless] is so untapped, it’s amazing,” she said.

New Wireless Technology May Power Range Of Mobile / Wearable Devices

New Wireless Technology May Power Range Of Mobile / Wearable Devices

Researchers demonstrate how one payment card can transfer funds to another card by leveraging the existing wireless signals around them. Ambient AMBT +% RF signals are both the power source and the communication medium.

Wearable technology seems to be a hot topic these days. Most of the major technology players have some form of wearable device in the works. Samsung is calling its product line, Galaxy Gear, which they say will encourage “a smarter life.” The hope is that Internet technology will move from being something that is some-what independent of us to something that is literally woven into our daily existence. From your shoes to your shirt, stove to your toilet, the future may be found in connecting every part of our lives. This is sometimes referred to as the “Internet of Things.” Yet a fundamental problem still remains.

How to power all these things?

Here’s the question, would you use a “smart watch” if the battery only lasted 10 hours? For me the answer is probably no. But thanks to a new breakthrough from researchers at the University of Washington this problem may soon be a thing of the past.

The researchers have created a new wireless technology they describe as Ambient Backscatter. A UW website explains the concept further, “it transforms existing wireless signals into both a source of power and a communication medium. It enables two battery-free devices to communicate by backscattering existing wireless signals. Backscatter communication is orders of magnitude more power-efficient than traditional radio communication. Further, since it leverages the ambient RF signals that are already around us, it does not require a dedicated power infrastructure as in RFID.”

“It’s hopefully going to have applications in a number of areas including wearable computing, smart homes and self-sustaining sensor networks,” said lead researcher Shyam Gollakota, a UW assistant professor of computer science and engineering.

“Our devices form a network out of thin air,” said co-author Joshua Smith, a UW associate professor of computer science and engineering and of electrical engineering. “You can reflect these signals slightly to create a Morse code of communication between battery-free devices.”

The other researchers involved are David Wetherall, a UW professor of computer science and engineering, Vincent Liu, a doctoral student in computer science and engineering, and Aaron Parks and Vamsi Talla, both doctoral students in electrical engineering. The researchers published their results at the Association for Computing Machinery’s Special Interest Group on Data Communication 2013 conference in Hong Kong. They received the conference’s best-paper award for their research.

The UW posts describes the technology in greater detail:

The researchers tested the ambient backscatter technique with credit card-sized prototype devices placed within several feet of each other. Groups of the devices were tested in a variety of settings in the Seattle area, including inside an apartment building, on a street corner and on the top level of a parking garage. These locations ranged from less than half a mile away from a TV tower to about 6.5 miles away.

They found that the devices were able to communicate with each other, even the ones farthest from a TV tower. The receiving devices picked up a signal from their transmitting counterparts at a rate of 1 kilobit per second when up to 2.5 feet apart outdoors and 1.5 feet apart indoors. This is enough to send information such as a sensor reading, text messages and contact information. It’s also feasible to build this technology into devices that do rely on batteries, such as smartphones. It could be configured so that when the battery dies, the phone could still send text messages by leveraging power from an ambient TV signal.

The University of Washington researchers are not the only people looking at solving the problem of mobile / wireless power. The Wireless Power Consortium have created a standard called Qi (pronounced “Chee”) which uses inductive electrical power transfer over distances of up to 4 cm (2 inches). The Qi system comprises a power transmission pad and a compatible receiver in a portable device. To use the system, the mobile device is placed on top of the power transmission pad, which charges it via electromagnetic induction. But unlike the UW researcher’s technology, the Qi specification is primarily targeting the recharging of a device rather than the actual powering of it.

The applications of true long haul wireless power transmission are as broad as they are exciting as Time.com’s Matt Packham explains, “given their size and wireless self-sufficiency, imagine these sensors embedded in everything from structures to vehicles to clothing. An office in a skyscraper might alert someone that a window’s been left open; a vehicle might alert you if the child lock’s been tripped or that there’s change under the seat; running shoes could let you know when you’ve reached their optimal mileage threshold. Or consider UW’s examples: bridges capable of alerting someone if stress-related cracks form, couches that sing out after they “eat” your keys and the option to send text messages or emails with “wearable” technology, battery-free.”

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