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Tech Data launches municipal wireless network division

Tech Data wants its VARs to tap into the lucrative municipal wireless network market and has established a new wireless business unit to help them with sales, technical support and product management resources.

Tech Data Corp.'s launch this week of a new wireless specialized business unit highlights the company's push not only into the corporate wireless market, but into the municipal wireless network business. Company executives expect the new business unit to foster closer partnerships with solution providers willing to take advantage of growing opportunities in the municipal wireless market.

The Clearwater, Fla.-based company announced that it would offer sales, technical support and product management resources for value-added resellers (VARs) seeking to capitalize on indoor and outdoor wireless networking solutions.

Tech Data has been selling wireless for a long time, but has mainly focused on wireless LANs and indoor wireless networks, according to Todd Gronemeyer, Tech Data's director of networking. Now the company wants to expand its reach, particularly into the municipal wireless network market.

"As we started looking into the opportunities with some of those manufacturers and within that market space, we realized there was an equally good if not even potentially bigger market in the outdoor wireless space," Gronemeyer said.

Outdoor wireless networks involve different vendors and are more complex, Gronemeyer said. He added that Tech Data will have to address and support VARs providing these systems.

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"When we started looking at the market we realized that there is a lot of different technologies, a lot of different products and manufacturers out there," Gronemeyer said. "We also realized that there was not as much expertise in that area and there was a need to develop that expertise and put some of the support mechanisms in place," he added.

"This is a step in the right direction," said Megan Burton, CEO of Boulder, Colo.-based LatusPoint, a Tech Data VAR partner.

While LatusPoint does provides indoor wireless systems, Burton says the outdoor market, particularly the municipal wireless network market nationwide, where wireless systems are being deployed for a wide range of public services and communications tools, is an area of business that is growing.

"The [municipal wireless network] market is actually rather huge. We actually started coming across opportunities with local municipalities probably about a year and a half ago and realized that it was a market that was untapped," Burton said.

Steve Robb, vice president of Rosemont, Ill.-based LaSalle Solutions, said there are many technologies to choose from that can address the municipal wireless network, and a dedicated business unit should help partners sort out and come up with appropriate solutions for customers.

"Some of the future technologies that are coming in this extended metropolitan wireless world will mean that if Tech Data has a little bit more focus, they might have access to some of the critical data that will help people make a decision on the tools they want to use going forward," Robb said.

Currently, Tech Data sells a wide range of products, including wireless access points, routers, gateways, antennas, switches, controllers and site survey kits, from vendors including Cisco, D-Link, Linksys, Nortel, Proxim and SonicWALL.

Municipal wireless network systems can improve public safety by providing wireless broadband access to police, fire, rescue and other emergency services. Other opportunities exist in high-crime areas where wireless IP cameras provide surveillance, and there is an increasing market for Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and unified communications systems to be deployed in cities over their networks, which is cheaper than telephone and cellular systems.

To serve the municipal wireless market, Gronemeyer said Tech Data wants to focus on applications and evolve from selling a box at a particular price point to a strategically oriented sale.

"Somebody is selling that wireless network because they are trying to achieve something. That something could be trying to add resources to make their personnel more effective, it could be remote meter reading, maybe it's working with the police force, maybe it's surveillance," Gronemeyer said. "The point is that the team wants to focus more on solution sales and applications that are going to naturally draw the products with it."

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