Pandora wants to open communications box here

A U.S.-based unified communications service provider is looking for Canadian VARs to sell its package of hosted Web-based voice and collaborative offerings here.

Pandora Networks has been selling its services in the U.S. and the U.K. for the last 12 months, promising them margins that are higher than they’d get by selling switches and routers alone and less work than setting up their own managed voice services offerings.

“Selling hardware is a really low-margin business,” said Walter Snell, chief executive officer of Emeryville, Calif.-based Pandora. “And when you sell a switch or a router you’re pretty much done for five years before you go back and sell them another. Ours is a recurring revenue model, which means the VAR doesn’t just make money on installing the hardware of our technology.”

“We’re very actively wanting to look outside the United States into places like Canada,” he said.

Coming north, however, means Pandora will be competing against telcos such as Bell Canada and Telus, as well cable companies like Rogers and Shaw who in some cases may also be using VARs to resell their offerings.

Ingram and Synnex VARs, for example, can resell phone and Internet service from Bell.

But Snell says Pandora’s offerings, aimed at small and medium-sized businesses, are unique.

The company not only offers voice over IP phone service complete with 911 and 411 service (although that connectivity is not set up here yet), it also offers a Web-based PBX system with voice-mail and auto attendant, instant messaging as well as online audio, video and Web conferencing.

All a user needs is an IP phone (hard or soft) and a desktop router.

The products come in three packages: WorkSmart Pro, at US$24.95 a month per seat is an basic offering; WorkSmart Office, at US$34.95 per seat per a month, includes video services and collaboration; and WorkSmart Enterprise, at US49.95 per seat per a month, which includes a contact centre.

Service can be delivered over any broadband connection.

Pandora sells only through the channel, either through companies tied into verticals such as real estate, “quick stop” restaurants and finance, or IT solution providers.

It has also started to partner with manufacturers of equipment that go with its service. For example, in January it announced a deal with router manufacturer D-Link Corp. to sell bundles of pre-configured hardware and services through their channels.

Details of the packages will be announced in the next 30 days.

Meanwhile next week Pandora will announce a new two-level VAR partner program. One level will be for companies that want to act as distributors for a number of resellers in their area, while the second level will be for resellers only.

Distributors could see up to 40 per cent margin, Snell said.

“One thing we looking for in the Canadian market is geographically-focused VARs that have a deep knowledge of their base that typically sell things like data or PBX equipment, he said.”

Partners can make money selling IP phones and routers as well as selling Pandora’s service to customers, Snell said. A selling point is that customers don’t need servers or firewalls.

He dismissed a suggestion that some VARs may worry their customers won’t want to buy U.S.-based communications services. “If they don’t understand the value of unified communications, there’s no need to talk to us,” he said. We’re way beyond the voice over IP providers out there.”

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Howard Solomon
Howard Solomon
Currently a freelance writer, I'm the former editor of and Computing Canada. An IT journalist since 1997, I've written for several of ITWC's sister publications including and Computer Dealer News. Before that I was a staff reporter at the Calgary Herald and the Brampton (Ont.) Daily Times. I can be reached at hsolomon [@]

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