Back together

Channel Live has long been a staple of every channel leader’s calendar, and Channel Live 2022 was back with a bang! Comms Business shares the highlights from the event.

Whether a visitor is looking to expand their portfolio and integrate new technologies, or seeking new partners and business opportunities, Channel Live has something for everyone – and this year’s edition was no different.

Over 1,200 attendees came together across the two-day event, with over 70 exhibitors and more than 60 expert speakers discussing the evolution of the Channel and the shape of things to come.

Tim Creswick, CEO and founder of Vorboss opened the conference programme with a call to the industry to evolve their expectations of connectivity and think about what should be possible, rather than what is available.

He said, “Enterprise fibre is broken here in the UK, and I’m here to explain why. Over the last twenty years, the regulatory environment in the UK has created a situation where over 80 per cent of business connections are provided by a single incumbent provider.

“Yes, we have a rich ecosystem of connections providers that sit on top of that and manage those customer relationships, but ultimately, as an industry we’re constrained by the main operator.

“As an industry, we’re constantly underdelivering on bandwidth, but that shouldn’t be a surprise. We know that monopolies are bad at innovation and customer focus. Somewhere in all of this, we’ve lost track of what the market needs and we’re just supplying what we have, and what the industry says customers need.”

Creswick then reflected on where the connectivity market was back in 2012, and discussed the progress made in terms of both the pace of technological change and the new expectations people around connectivity.

He added, “More than ever, the UK is a knowledge economy. And a knowledge economy – when you really get to the fundamentals – is fuelled by two things: people’s minds and connectivity.”

This shift towards a knowledge economy, Creswick argued, has been constrained by existing networks, and Vorboss is building a network that can open up possibilities for these businesses. Creswick explained, “A few years ago, we asked ourselves what would it take to make London the world leader in business connectivity? It’s a big question and we believe we need to do more to meet the connectivity demands of businesses.

“That sounds on the one hand quite lofty and on the other incredibly boring. But when you put it in the context of fuelling a knowledge economy and unlocking the potential of people’s minds, what they can do, and how they can work, it starts to sound a lot more interesting. We need to lead from the front, and we believe we should be overdelivering on bandwidth.”

Also on day one, Steve Blackshaw, head of all-IP at BT Wholesale, discussed how the Channel can transition to all-IP. He outlined BT’s timeline for moving away from legacy services and emphasised, “By September 2023, you will not be able to sell PSTN and, by December 2025, you need your customers off those contracts. this is not a time to panic.

“But I would seriously think about speeding up the programme inside your company to look at your installed base of legacy contracts and build a plan. If you do have to migrate, make it as easy [as possible].”

Next up, Gamma’s Chris Wade, chief marketing and product officer, and Daryl Pile, managing director for the Channel, spotlighted how to monetise the big opportunies. Wade pointed to the upcoming PSTN switch off and said, “It’s a stimulus for all of our businesses and an opportunity.”

Pile added, “[The switch off] is going to be difficult because you’ve [the channel community] done a really good job. ISDN lines: you’re not making 15 per cent [margins], you’re making more like 40-45. That’s a problem and we get that, so let’s not sugar coat it. You’ve got a big base where you’re making 35 to 40 points. If you just move that base to the latest technology, you’ll be at a lower margin. But it’s not all bad news, there is a way out of this.”

Pile discussed how channel companies need to look at the services they supply to their customers and identify upsell opportunities. What’s more, he explained, partners need to get in front of their competition by starting to sell the next generation solutions now.

On day two, Anna Maria Marzec-Smith, sales manager at ProVu Communications, spotlighted how channel companies can make the most of their distributor. She explained, “Ultimately, if you want to know how good a distributor is, or what might work best for you, the best thing you can do is just ask around. Get feedback from other resellers. Get feedback from people you know within the industry. Word of mouth is more powerful than a nicely designed website or any presentation.

“Each reseller is different, but you just need to know that it is okay to ask questions. It is okay to find what works for you. Without a reseller, a distributor has no business – so find a distributor who values that.”

Elsewhere, Tim Mercer, CEO of Vapour, discussed technology as a service opportunities the market hasn’t yet thought about including li-fi, going deeper with 5G/IoT/UC/CX, IP voice, and quantum computing. He said, “I’m not going to tell you the technology as a service solutions that you should be selling, I’m just trying to broaden your horizons about what’s going to happen in this space.”

The show floor

On the exhibition floor, Digital Wholesale Solutions was joined by Giacom and Union Street Technologies, with the three companies presenting a combined product portfolio across telecoms, IT, cloud, hardware, and billing.

DocuWare was spotlighting its cloud-based preconfigured solutions for document management and workflow automation. The company provided insight into how these solutions can be deployed, customised and integrated with VAR and reseller customer’s existing software within three days.

Zoom used its presence at the event to showcase its commitment to channel partners and highlight why Zoom is business critical and could be part of partner growth plans. The company recently redefined its commitment to its Channel ecosystem of distributors, master agents, value-added resellers, carriers, service providers and ISVs. The revamped programme focuses on three key pillars: increasing sales alignment, ease of doing business, and partner profitability.

On Inform Billing’s stand, the company spotlighted its API-driven Eclipse Next Generation software. The company works with resellers of all sizes to drive revenues and maximise profit through flexible and scalable billing solutions. Elsewhere Synaxon was showcasing its portfolio of e-procurement, distribution and managed services solutions.

Also on the exhibition floor, Mediatron held live demos of products from manufacturers including Raritan, Legrand, Server Technology, Adder Technology and Aten. Epsilon Telecommunications took the opportunity to engage with MSPs, IT resellers and telecoms consultants that are looking for innovative technology partners to grow with them.

Westcoast was showcasing the Aruba and Westcoast offering, with the company offering visitors to its stand insight into the latest on Aruba ESP and Aruba Central. And Akixi showcased Akixi ONE, the company’s solution for hybrid workers, as well as an integration with Webex Calling.

Callroute was exhibiting its UCaaS and CCaaS platforms, as well as providing detail on its referral and resale reseller programmes. And Community Fibre exhibiting its business services for the first time, with the company sharing detail on the partner onboarding process and Community Fibre’s network footprint.

Channel Live will return to the NEC, in Birmingham, between the 29th and 30th March 2023.

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Charlotte Hathway

Charlotte is the editor of Comms Business and writes about the latest technology innovations and business developments across the Channel. Got a story? Get in touch – charlotte.hathway@markallengroup.com.

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