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Wireless-Dealer Association Forms

3/22/2010 10:53:16 AM Eastern

San Diego - A trio of
wireless-industry executives launched a hybrid trade association and buying
consortium designed to help independent cellular retailers compete more effectively
with national chains and carrier-owned stores.

 Scott Tibbets

The
organization, called the Wireless Convergence Network
(WiCON), will exhibit at International CTIA Wireless 2010 in Las Vegas from March 23-25. The founders were
executives with The Mobile Solution, a 375-store wireless chain that was one of
T-Mobile's largest exclusive dealers before it was sold off last year, said
WiCON CEO and co-founder Scott Tibbets.

The
need for a group like WiCON has grown as major retailers have grown
increasingly aggressive in wireless, Tibbets said. Because of their clout,
major retailers get more carrier and handset-vendor support and greater
activation commissions than smaller dealers, he said.

The
group will offer discounted legal, human resources, insurance, real-estate,
merchandising and store-design services, most through an in-house team, as well
as arrange for discounts on cellular accessories, open-market handsets, office
supplies, point-of-sale equipment, store fixturing and office supplies, said
Tibbets. The group will also work with handset suppliers to create marketing
programs that otherwise wouldn't be available to smaller dealers, he said.

The
group will also provide activation-commission reconciliation services to
dealers, and it will create joint advertising programs with handset-vendor
support. Other services include brand-building and operational consulting.

WiCON
is calling itself a trade association as well as a buying consortium because it
will provide best-practices information and industry information through
newsletters as well "advocacy services" to negotiate on members' behalf to, for
example, add new carriers to a store's existing carrier selection, Tibbets
said.

The
group will accept dealers with as few as one to two stores or kiosks to as many
as 200 to 300 stores or kiosks, though the average-size dealer will likely
operate about 10 outlets, he said. The group is targeting a membership roster
of 200 dealer members by year's end and more than 2,000 in 2012. Dealer members
pay monthly membership fees of $25 to $150 per store, excluding the price of deeply
discounted services, he noted. New members get a 90-day free trial membership.

The
group won't operate as a master agent, which negotiates competitive commissions
and phone prices directly from carriers, shares in the commissions, and
provides activation services and phones to dealers that are too small to be
direct agents of carriers. "We represent all dealers of all providers," Tibbets
said. "If we were to earn commissions from any carrier directly, then it would
create a conflict of interest."

Other
WiCON executives are COO Brad Hunter and chief financial officer Scott Spence,
also formerly with The Mobile Solution.

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