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Huge opportunities for resellers to embrace 5G, says Data Select CEO

Manny Pham
May 20, 2019

Next year will bring a host of fresh 5G-centric products, says Fergal Donovan

Data Select is urging partners to fully embrace the opportunities presented by 5G as the new technology is readied for launch this year.

The comments were made by the distributor’s CEO, Fergal Donovan, speaking at the Data Select Platinum Club partner conference at the Belfry Hotel in Sutton Coldfield earlier this month.

Attended by 130 members and brand partners, the event saw Data Select showcase new products from Google and Samsung that it has also added to its portfolio.

Donovan, who has been running the company for nearly four years, is optimistic about the opportunities for 5G and its impact on business.

He cited agriculture as just one area that could benefit, with farmers able to use 5G sensors to improve livestock management by, for example, maintaining humidity levels and automating feed to increase the productivity of chickens.

Donovan also sees 5G as a potential replacement for fixed-wireless broadband.

“We’re going to be selling a lot of 5G modems to the market,” he said. “We are going to see billions of connected devices and the capacity in the network has been improved dramatically to support that. Consumers are going to see 5G being a real alternative to broadband. It will be simple plug and play.”

He doesn’t expect 5G to really get going until the end of this year, with some of the main product launches for consumers and businesses happening next year. Data Select expects its first 5G offerings to consist of modems and MiFi hubs, mainly from Huawei and HTC (see box below).

“This is where 5G is going to establish itself first,” said Donovan. “This will happen after the summer. We see EE, Vodafone and O2 in the test stages, with many big cities seeing test beds. There are exciting times ahead.”

Data Select’s turnover for its financial year ending on April 30 last year was £156.1 million, while profit dipped by £300,000 year-on-year to £1.6 million, according to Companies House.

Donovan expects the company’s next financial results to be positive, despite the challenges of a shrinking market for new smartphones, but declined to disclose figures.

“We have grown year-on-year in a market that is going backwards. I think that’s due to us looking at new channels and new vendors, and creating more opportunities for our vendors and for our partners. We’re glad that we were able to enjoy growth this year, despite the mobile industry being down once again this year.”

He said he was inspired to embrace 5G sooner rather than later by what he saw at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in February, where an array of announcements spurred Data Select into planning and preparing ways for partners to seize opportunities for the technology.

“There are lots of 5G devices in testing right now, but it’s going to be a while until there’s a decent consumer proposition out there,” said Donovan. “Initial devices will probably go through the operator channel. So how do we, as a B2B distributor, build propositions for 5G?

“After our visit to the Mobile World Congress year, it was evident that MiFi dongles and boosters are creating a viable alternative to fixed-line connectivity. We are working on several plans with partners as to how we can build those propositions to bring them early to market when the market’s ready.”

Donovan said that Data Select will in a few weeks announce a new partnership with a vendor from the Far East, noting the progress that Chinese smartphone vendors have made since entering the UK market – especially in terms of Huawei taking market share from the Samsung and Apple duopoly.

But Donovan expects “casualties” in the next two years, with some established and smaller vendors expected to feel the heat.

“Huawei has gained almost a 20 per cent share globally, and now players such as Xiaomi have reached these shores,” he said.

“Some traditional vendors are starting to struggle despite having excellent products,” he added, with new players offering competitive pricing.

Donovan agreed that Data Select may not have the scale of its rivals, but that the agility this gives it sets it apart from bigger rivals such as Tech Data and Ingram Micro, enabling it to “punch well above” its weight.

The company has direct  partnerships with: Alcatel, BlackBerry, Boompods, DJI, Doro, Google, Hammer, HTC, Honor, NUU Mobile, Rhinoshield, Samsung, SOTI, Veho and Vodafone.

“We do hit above our weight,” said Donovan. “As long as we continue to grow every year I’m happy.  We are a mobile-centric business. Others see mobile as a bolt-on to IT. Some people might see this disadvantage; we see it as an advantage. We’re specialists at what we do.”

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