Saturday, 9 June 2012

LTE data MVNO and wholesale LTE


I get asked a lot about LTE and the MVNO, and well be speaking about it and chairing a panel on it at the 2013 MVNO conference. Imust get asked about LTE and MVNO as much as I get asked about LTE and mobile apps if not more, and given that apps is a much, much bigger industry, well then it must be a big question!

Like many "MNO things" in MVNO, if you apply them without any thought, i.e. in what we will call a legacy manner, again, it will be your quickest route to MVNO failure, as you will just be selling what a bigger version of you is selling and spending more on marketing on and has bigger margins on so can squeeze you. However, I also get bored silly at conferences and meetings on LTE and the MVNO and how LTE will impact the market in general, and the main reason is that a lot of people are applying the same old principles as they did last time and the fundamental mistake:

Technology does not solve problems; it presents opportunities that can solve problems, but then this solution comes with its own set of problems, like everything in life...

The Fundamental mistake in terms of an MVNO is the fact that most MVNOs are still not leveraging 3G or even 2G data, how is evolution going to make a difference: the answer is manifold and varies depending on where we are talking about and the market there:

  • In general: in general the only difference could be that hopefully LTE will make the MNOs a little more open to discuss data propositions for the MVNO. At present, MNOs, even the good ones, tend to have a mental seizure with data, as they expect the MVNO to assume the risk of arbitrage. MVNOs in turn, then have a similar level of mental breakdown when they insist they need bundles... when in fact they can get on selling at least 30% to 50% of the data they can sell by simply selling data to the 50% of the market that use under 100mb of data per month as I mentioned in a recent post and not worry their MNO with potential capacity strains that cause their MNO mental seizure in the first place. The reality here is that the MNOs should stop flat rating data that causes this issues in the first place, however they will not for fear of churn, or if they all do it price collusion, so LTE may well be the catalyst that spurs proper MNO data pricing that does not let 5% of the data leeching users ruin the experience and business models of the rest of the world!
  • US market. Here LTE will be different, in that the CDMA players will finally have a play in the multimedia IMS space and a much more equal pegging that the two tier wholesale market at present, where the CDMA wholesale rate reflects the lower desirability of end users and business over GSM based solutions. We can expect the LTE players to be able to launch more, and more exciting MVNOs with LTE
  • Data SIM usage. I have been saying for a long time (5-10) years that there will be a rise of SIM usage and that the MNO will not want to, let alone be able to fulfil all of these opportunities themselves. Indeed, if they do not, many of them will find less appealing alternatives that cut out the MNO all together. An example is GPS, at present people either tether to their phone when they can be bothered for probably 5% of journeys, or download off-line or even use a dongle: in essence, the MNO is making nothing here as this data will inevitably be an unseen blimp on a flat rate data tariff, or an extra 2mb twice a year on a standard tariff, or at worse be by-passed altogether (download via ISP). if they do a deal with an MVNO that manages these SIMs (maybe 1,000,000 SIMs to an HLR and low QoS, latency, etc that these devices will work fine with, vs. high availability, fully loaded generic SIMs or even MNO M2M SIMs which are still engineered towards an average scenario and over engineered quality that IBM requires, not what Joe Blogs wants for his 10 different devices....) the user will happily pay Tom Tom or Garmin £5 per month for the SIM and some other services they bundle, like auto updates, being able to track where you have been on a website, and even pay another £5 per month for the data; for every journey. This could be £2-5 per month incremental revenue for every TomTom or Garmin in car navigation device sold. As, I believe KPN coined the phrase; "wholesale is better than no sale". at present 95% of PAID mobile data solutions go unfulfilled... (I have run some numbers for this based on business models that have not made it, vs. the whole of business models I have put to market, and the lack of extra data sold on those that did go to market - its shocking!)
  • M2M, as above, M2M has been engineered to the early adopter solutions that were defined by consultancies and technologists to cater for the first proposals, like tracking shipping containers around the world. Without going into details, the MNO is geared presently around small amounts of data over long periods of time and usually extended or wide spread distances. There are many other niche opportunities that have been aching to get to market, but have not been on thee in-house radar. All LTE will add, I hope, here is the ability for a two tier model of large local bandwidth and widespread lower bandwidth, which is not catered for at the moment without using wi-fi for the high bandwidth. While this may seem like a solution, if you think getting mobile coverage in your home, office and other locations is hard, try covering whole company locations and warehouses with wi-fi and integrating it with thee mobile network: there are many who will say its easy, and they are either lying or have never had to project manage the mess they designed! an all-mobile solution for this will be a game changer, assuming it changes the mind-set
The worst part? that the first and the second two could be done now, just that LTE will change the way a) people perceive data at the wholesale level, and b) will drive MNOs to drive usage and so we will see the business plans that were possible technically 5-10 years ago, finally be enabled, not by a technology, but by the circumstances that the arrival of a new technology has created.

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