Frew discovers life beyond distribution

Frew discovers life beyond distribution

LAN Systems boss and one of Australia's favourite IT channel sons, Scott Frew, can smell another good business proposition.

Back in Australia for the holiday break, Frew is close to signing a lucrative deal with Optus to provide content services for what could be our first serious wireless application protocol (WAP) system.

Frew, LAN Systems' CEO, left for Europe mid 1999 to pursue a personal challenge to develop new business ventures that revolve around emerging Internet technologies.

In an exclusive interview with ARN, the self-confessed IT `toy boy' explained that he is close to finalising the structure and name of a new global sister company to LAN Systems under the management of the group's umbrella company MarketEntry.

In addition, he plans to float the company in the UK by March. The former CEO of European Cisco distributor Illion, Wayne Shannon, will head up the London-based company, with support from other as yet unnamed high-profile European IT executives.

Based in Waterloo, Belgium, Frew explained the company's technology revolves around the concept of wireless mobile directory services.

The company has already developed working databases to supply the information content using WAP technology to deliver it to devices such as intelligent mobile phones.

`We're a super content provider, basically,' he said.

Working examples include restaurant, accommodation and taxi guides for Ireland and the UK. In the case of the restaurant guide, Frew explained the user selects the city, location and type of restaurant required from a menu on the phone, chooses a restaurant from the list and is instantly connected. Other applications include the ability to use SMS messages to transmit regular orders to takeaway restaurants.

`As soon as the telcos deploy the phones, we've got the business to provide content,' he said.

Optus is the closest to being able to take up the WAP service, which would extend its existing content delivery of weather and stock quotes.

Sandwiched between the service provider and device provider, Frew's content company is a new breed of channel company. According to Nick Verykios, LAN Systems' chief marketing officer: `As global players they will redefine the channel.'

When asked why he is pursuing technology and content-based business in Europe rather than establishing a new traditional distribution company, Frew said the cost of entry to the market was simply too high and WAP offered higher margins.

`The one thing I have been able to do is build [LAN Systems] and keep the equity,' he said.

Investing in the highly competitive European distribution market would seriously erode that equity, he said.

Frew will return to Belgium this Saturday without worrying about LAN Systems, which is heading for $90 million in revenues this year.

The future for LAN Systems includes the incorporation of more services into its back-end systems, and the adoption of a new name. `We don't just do LANs any more,' Frew said.

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