Wireless-Dealer Association Forms

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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.

 

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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