Alcatel Appoint Sphinx as Voice Distributor – MTV Telecom & Rocom Future is Uncertain

In a move certain to cause some disruption and uncertainty in the channel Alcatel-Lucent appears to have ditched its existing two UK voice distributors, MTV Telecom and Rocom, in favour of newly appointed distributor Sphinx of Nottingham.

The announcement today by Alcatel-Lucent makes no mention of the withdrawal of their products from MTV Telecom or Rocom but Comms Business Magazine understands the strategy, devised some six months ago and relayed to analysts under strict embargo, includes the ‘phase out’ of the two established distributors.

Indeed, letters we have received today from Alcatel channel partners would appear to bear out the fact that overnight Sphinx has become Alcatel-Lucent’s ‘preferred’ distributor.

In a supporting letter accompanying that which Sphinx MD Mark Hatton has sent to resellers, Graham Allen, Alcatel VP Enterprise Sales UK and Ireland says, “…your support from Distribution and Alcatel-Lucent needs to change.” Adding, “We are convinced that this change (to Sphinx) will offer a more versatile and focused service to you and assist in making the move to selling Convergence.”

Alcatel-Lucent say they have “expanded their UK channel coverage with the signing of a distribution deal with Sphinx, one of the UK’s foremost independent distributors and go on to add, “This deal forms a central part of Alcatel-Lucent’s new strategy to significantly extend its UK channels coverage through the recruitment of leading channel partners. Sphinx will distribute Alcatel-Lucent’s enterprise voice solutions to its own data resellers and also to new and existing Alcatel-Lucent voice resellers with an ultimate goal of providing end users in the UK with a viable alternative for voice and data infrastructure solutions.

Significantly the Alcatel-Lucent announcement says, “While offering a full portfolio of complementary IT products, Sphinx will not carry any competitive products to Alcatel-Lucent’s enterprise voice solutions. This focus will enable Sphinx to deliver superior marketing initiatives, training programmes, and technical support, all of which will help resellers to improve their enterprise offerings and boost their revenues. A dedicated team has also been set up within Sphinx to assist Alcatel-Lucent resellers with business development activities as well as with pre- and post-sales technical support.

“We are very enthusiastic about the signing of this agreement with Sphinx. It is a highly strategic move for the new Alcatel-Lucent in the UK; the current UK IP telephony market is widely predicted to grow, so it’s vital we have a distribution partner that is focused on helping resellers deliver solutions that provide true value and choice to end users while closing more deals,” said Graeme Allan, for Alcatel-Lucent enterprise activities in UK and Ireland. “Sphinx’s commitment to Alcatel-Lucent as its sole voice vendor is key to the expansion of our UK channel operations. While multi-vendor distributors have little or no incentive to promote competing solutions to the same reseller, Sphinx has no split loyalties, and will champion Alcatel-Lucent solutions to all voice resellers.”

Speaking earlier today to Comms Business Magazine, Mark Hatton, MD at Sphinx said, “We are delighted to have signed Alcatel-Lucent voice products to our portfolio. This is our first day of trading and we have three Alcatel-Lucent employees on board helping us get up to speed as soon as possible. Our staff have been recently trained by Alcatel-Lucent and we will be recruiting further.”

Hatton added, “By adding Alcatel-Lucent voice solutions to our security and networking product portfolio, our resellers now have access to a range of best-of-breed solutions that meets all the technology needs of today’s enterprise.”

Commenting on the new Alcatel distribution strategy Martin Hatcher, Chairman of MTV Telecom said:

“As of this morning we have received no official notification of any announcement from Alcatel. MTV Telecom has consistently built Alcatel revenues year on year over a five year period and we are puzzled by their strategy to ostensibly discard existing distributors in favour of a single, untried, untested and ultimately inexperienced, as far as voice communications is concerned, alternative.

Most channel observers would say that this type of distribution model is fundamentally flawed from the outset and channel players with longer memories will recall ‘switchback rollercoaster’ strategies deployed by Alcatel some years ago. These observers could be excused, with apparently some justification, for thinking that the company has reverted to type.

We believe that Alcatel has found it difficult to compete for traction within multi-vendor distributors and considers therefore a sole, single vendor distributor solution their preferred option going forward. However, at some point in the whole sales process to end users Alcatel will have to compete with other products; their problem is not going to disappear overnight.

Alcatel should also not underestimate reseller needs. Moving distribution to a company with no voice heritage is a perilous prospect and will place their resellers at a real disadvantage when compared to the understanding and experience companies such as MTV Telecom bring to bear on the voice and convergence channels.

Indeed, given the fact that our other PBX platform vendors all have new models or enhancements coming to market this quarter, including Avaya IP Office 4.0 and one-X Quick Edition and the new IP based Panasonic TDE, Alcatel would appear to have put themselves under pressure at just the wrong time.”

Hatcher concludes that his company has made many commitments to their existing Alcatel reseller base and is presently in discussions with Alcatel to agree an exit strategy.

“Clearly we want to honour existing reseller agreements and will be doing all that is possible to ensure these are adhered to over the coming months.”

Richard Carter. Managing Director of distributor Rocom, told Comms Business Magazine that he understood the decision by Alcatel-Lucent was as a result of the company employing consultants to evaluate the Alcatel channel last year and that he would be meeting with Alcatel tomorrow to discuss recent events.