with Marc Rohleder, director business sales and engineering at T-Mobile USA
As part of T-Mobile's plan to rejuvenate itself following the failed $39 billion acquisition by AT&T (NYSE:T), the company said it will grow its market share in the business-to-business space. That strategy includes hiring 1,000 more business sales representatives, increasing the company's distribution channels and beefing up its marketing and advertising. At the recent CTIA Wireless 2012 conference in New Orleans, FierceWireless Editor in Chief Sue Marek sat down with Marc Rohleder, T-Mobile's director of business sales engineering, to talk about the company's B2B strategy.
FierceWireless: T-Mobile is making a big push into the business-to-business area now. This is an area that T-Mobile hasn't pursued for a long time. Why the change in strategy now?
Rohleder: We've been in the B2B space for 10+ years. We have 10- to 12-year veterans in our B2B group. We've always been in the enterprise space. We have about 5 percent share today. And we believe we can gain more of that share because we have been under-represented in that space. On the consumer side, we have about 12 percent and that is closer to our fair share.
But to build the B2B business it requires additional investment and it requires Phillip Humm [T-Mobile USA's CEO] to support us. This is one of our key strategic initiatives. And that's one of the biggest changes for us going forward. With Phillip's leadership and support for B2B we have the opportunity to do more things to capture more share and be a bigger player.
FierceWireless: What is T-Mobile's strategy for B2B?
Rohleder: 2011 was the acquisition year. We are now re-invigorating the "Challenger" strategy. We said re-invigorate because this strategy was actually rolled out prior to the announced acquisition by AT&T. We kind of altered the strategy a bit when we were in acquiring mode. Now we are dusting it off. We didn't lose all that work. We plan to bring these new capabilities to market this year.
FierceWireless: How can you increase your share in the B2B space?
Rohleder: We talk about how the speeds and capabilities of our network are more than adequate for the B2B market today. The speeds are very good and so is the performance. Our customers can take advantage of that. Our view is that today we have a great 4G network and we have a plan for moving forward with LTE.
FierceWireless: Do you think there is confusion among the enterprise space about what 4G is and what it means?
Rohleder: If you are talking to the business owners, there is some confusion. If you are talking to the IT group, they understand it all too well. I think in general, businesses are looking for us to clarify it. The way we do it is to prove it. We could talk for an hour about LTE and HSPA+ but that doesn't do much good. We just put a device in their hands and power their application and prove the performance.
FierceWireless: How will you differentiate from your competitors?
Rohleder: From a network perspective, one way we differentiate is through Wi-Fi calling. Clearly that's an area that we feel is a strong differentiator. You have customers with coverage challenges--that's across all carriers. For example you might have a company with poor coverage in a basement or another area. Also, a lot of companies want to offload their voice traffic to the Wi-Fi network to help with costs. Or if you have a company with a large international presence, or people that are traveling internationally, they see the benefits of Wi-Fi calling. It's a big differentiator.
We continue to push Wi-Fi calling into all of our devices. Right now, it's available in BlackBerry and Android devices.
Our other advantage is the international perspective. We are part of Deutsche Telekom. We have strong agreements in those countries and can offer cheaper roaming in those countries. We also can give them other services. We have a partnership with iPass for Global Corporate Access. They have a connection manager and entire platform and we have rebranded as Global Corporate Access. We do it for a fixed fee for our customers. They have a fixed monthly recurring cost. Not a pay-per-use model.
FierceWireless: What about distribution? A lot of operators have enterprise specific sales forces and they work with VARs. Do you have that same model?
Rohleder: One of the areas where we are growing--we are growing our sales force. Today we have 400 or so sales reps. We are hiring 1,000 more in the next 12-18 months. We are tripling our sales force. That is how we get the story out. That is our distribution model.
We also have a VAR model--this is typically small business focused. We work with TechData and some other partners. TechData has 60,000 VARS under them. So that's how we leverage the VAR side. We have other partners that we work with also, so if we don't have a solution they can augment our capabilities.
Small business is also served by direct and retail stores.
FierceWireless: What about pricing?
Rohleder: We are working on intelligent pricing and disruptive pricing plans to go after business customers. And we are also looking at ways to increase our marketing and advertising messages. I think this will mean more local marketing in addition to our existing approach.
We are also investing in a lot of our systems, back end systems, to help our customers. That is how we plan to gain more share.
FierceWireless: Do you think the lack of the iPhone is impacting you? We hear more and more about the iPhone being a popular device with enterprises.
Rohleder: Make no mistake the iPhone has changed the whole market. Would we benefit from having the iPhone? We certainly would. But our view is that a strong BlackBerry lineup, our strong Android platform with tablets and devices, and the Windows Phone device gives us a compelling portfolio to offer to enterprises.