Executives Detail Harris Tait Exclusive Agreement, Dealer Integration Plan Underway
Thursday, August 25, 2016 | Comments
Harris and Tait Communications executives provided further details about the exclusive agreement announced earlier this month between the two companies, including integrating the two vendors’ distribution channels.

Under the agreement, Harris becomes the master exclusive distributor for all of Tait’s products, including Digital Mobile Radio (DMR) and Project 25 (P25), in North America. The announcement comes at the end of Harris’ DMR agreement with Hytera, whereby Harris was reselling DMR equipment from Hytera under the Harris name.

The new partnership will see products co-branded as “Harris powered by Tait.” The companies will brand as Harris Tait in the marketplace.

“One of the nice things we’ve seen is there is little overlap, and Tait provides a good complement for what Harris has,” said Lori Thompson, Harris vice president of strategy and business development. “We respect the capability and reputation that Tait quality brings to their products.”

Tait products, including the 9400 P25 radios, position Harris in the low to mid-tier product line, adding to Harris’ next-generation high-tier devices such as the XL-200.

Tait’s changes began months ago with the company repositioning for the future; most of the firm’s leadership team is new. Tait will maintain its Houston office and 60-person staff, and it will be dedicated to technical support and installation support. There will be no reduction in staff in Houston, said Craig Clapper, Tait president, global solutions and business development.

“Houston will continue to be our base of operations in North America, all the way down to Argentina,” he said. “Our plans are to reposition the Houston office to be a center of excellence, with support, technical expertise and solutions development as an extension of the Christchurch teams. We think the Houston office will become stronger now.”

Tait has a global footprint, with offices in Sydney, Australia; Vienna, Austria; and Cambridge, United Kingdom, in addition to its Christchurch, New Zealand headquarters. With a footprint of customers throughout the world, there are a number of conversations for expanding the North American model outside the United States and Canada, Clapper said.

In North America, the Harris agreement gives Tait growth opportunity, allowing it to double its dealer channels. “Harris has done a fantastic job of building a dealer network, with two tiers with regional centers of excellence,” Clapper said.

Harris is responsible for all system sales. Tait will sell to Harris, and Harris will resell to the distributors. “In a lot of cases, dealers have quick opportunities, so the bigger the portfolio, the better the opportunity,” Clapper said.

Harris invited all Tait dealers to come under the Harris umbrella. Tait dealers can take on the Harris product line in addition to the Tait product line and vice versa for Harris dealers. The companies are about 30 days into a 90-day channel partner integration plan.

“We have an aggressive schedule for the rollout and coordination,” Thompson said. “It is our hope that there will be a 90-day integration. We have talked with nearly every dealer. In combination we hope to be over 270 dealers.”

Mike Miller, president of RACOM, a Harris dealer in Iowa, said the integration of the product lines is ongoing with dealer meetings underway.

“I’ve long been a passionate advocate for an arrangement like this,” Miller said. “The Tait line is world class in the conventional LMR space — analog and P25. Their base station is simply the very best in the industry. Tait is also the clear market leader in the DMR space, especially at Tier 3 DMR. Harris is the world leader in the P25 trunked space — multisite and simulcast and the best manufacturer of full-band mobile and portables. The product lines complement each other very well, and this deal allows us to serve a much wider base of customers.”

Previous Harris sales were roughly 50 percent through dealers and 50 percent direct sales. Dennis Martinez, Harris chief technology officer (CTO), said there is little geographic overlap for the dealers. “Interestingly, Tait has strong distribution in the West, Midwest and Canada, and we have stronger areas where they didn’t,” he said.

Harris has a large installed EDACS base, and Tait has many MPT 1327 customers. The combined team will try to migrate those legacy customers to DMR technology.

“As oil and gas starts to recover, worker safety is paramount, and the ability to provide systems to that is important,” Clapper said.

Harris hopes to tap large utility networks through the agreement; the company has previously been more focused on public safety. “What Tait brings is the entry into the enterprise market, and the product that works for utility and transportation and other extended users of the P25 and DMR terminals,” Thompson said. “Our hope is to find selective opportunities, in particular larger utilities that span the globe. The P25 conversion is something that provides an opportunity for both companies.”

“The market for public safety is likely to contract, and with contraction you have consolidation — probably not in the near term but it is a reasonable expectation,” said Martinez. “We are in the threshold of what is the new next wave of technology. It is an exciting time to be in this industry because it affords so many opportunities to benefit the customer.”

Harris partnered with Rivada Networks to bid on the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) earlier this year.

Martinez said FirstNet hasn’t had a big impact yet on public-safety buying patterns, and a large number of entities are out for bid for new LMR systems. “It’s active in that regard,” he said.

Martinez said regardless of which entity wins the FirstNet contract, Harris plans to sell public-safety Long Term Evolution (LTE) end-user devices and applications. To that end, Harris plans to release an XL-200 radio with LTE capability by the beginning of 2017.

“Our view is to be able to offer the best path for the customer in a converged world and some areas with just LMR and some with LTE and some with both and to help them with the best strategy for that,” Thompson said.

“Partnering with Harris, one of the main drivers of Rivada Mercury, gives us an opportunity to play in that when we get to FirstNet,” Clapper said. Tait also plans to sell public-safety LTE devices and software for seamless roaming among all networks. “As a small company, it’s important to identify the right partners to work with on that,” he said.

“The amount of cooperation and excitement from the teams regarding this, was really surprising and awesome,” Clapper said. “It’s a great opportunity for growth for both our parties.”

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