Showing posts with label Future MVNO. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Future MVNO. Show all posts

Thursday, 16 March 2017

eSIM opportunity for MVNOs, MVNEs and manufacturers as per Dallas MVNO conference


The eSIM is a hotly debated trend and was the subject of the two panels I spoke on in the Dallas 2016 Wholesale Connectivity Convention where in addition to the usual blurb I was ken to get actual dates from panellists on when they thought the technology would become mainstream. I warned I would write these dates down and blog about them, but have stopped short of saying who said which date in order to protect the innocent!
eSIMs were an integral part of 
There were two panels,  The Panel on Global connectivity with eSIM as a sub topic (morning) with Gigsky, my old client Tim previously of Microsoft, now with Transatel and the omnipresent Dave from Aspider.
Speaking with Gigsky, Transatel and Aspider on eSIM as part of how global connectivity can drive growth
In the afternoon session we had another old client of mine, Federico Homberg from Deutsche Telecom, Steffen Frenck from the SIMalliance, David Buhan from Gemalto and Tony Wyant from Gigsky again. The key outcome for me is that I asked all the panel and some of the audience to give me a date when they believed that eSIM would make mass market (and yes I did emphasise that I was taking notes), when it would appear as a viable option in Niches (alongside normal SIMs) and two in between options emerged: mainstream in niches, such as smart watches; and "in every new car".
Mainstream eSIMs are still a way away, however for certain specialist players / trusted parties there are niche opportunities
The writing on the wall is that that mass market eSIM is a good few years away / not coming anytime soon and the reasons for this discussed and offered were:

Supporting eSIM is complex and requires trust from vendors

Many MVNEs and MVNOs saying they are going into eSIM, that they can support eSIM, etc, etc. However they generally stumble on the following.

Financials

eSIM means distribution is "easy" (although its not necessarily the case, see "managing eSIM is complex" below), however the reality is that the business is very unpredictable;
  1.  essentially people can take an eSIM for a month, a week, a day or even just a few hours in an airport, and then not return for a few months if ever, yet someone is stuck with paying costs for that user on an HLR, CRM, billing system, etc. most of which are billed somewhere along the line on the fact that they will be used for a good few months, not a day here or there.
  2. forecasting is impossible
  3. USP / customer ownership - there is very little to leverage other than cost
  4. loyalty - there is none in many cases!

Managing eSIM is complex

The biggest issue I have come across to date is the concept that many have whereby they say "we can support eSIM", when in fact is what they mean is "we have tested eSIM".  This gap between what you can do for 1, 10, 100 or even low 1,000s of SIMs vs. what you can scale is the bane of the mobile industry and one of the key limiting factors of MVNOs and MVNEs growing, and often sadly also the demise of MVNOs and MVNEs as it prohibits them hitting critical mass. The bad news is that it only gets worse when you add the scale and complexity of eSIM.

This is a bit like saying, "I can send an email, sending emails works from our systems" which just about anybody can say, however this is very, very different from being able to manage a busy inbox efficiently, and even further away from having an email sending system and email management system installed, integrated and working for a specific application! does not mean I have an email campaign management system!

The most recent case was a couple of years ago and eSIM was at the core of the service proposition; At the 11th hour the need for a third party eSIM platform and integration was required. In hindsight it all became clear to me, as said MVNE did not even have simple OTA ability in house, so managing sSIM was a whole level of pain higher. 

eSIM requires trust and relationship management

the eSIM relationship is one that often requires deep sharing of what many MNOs, MVNOs and OEMs consider highly confidential data that very few people in the business, let alone outside of the business are allowed access to. Mismanagement of this type of data to the wrong party or a party who cannot manage security credibly is asking for that OEMs customers to have their private pictures shared or their phones calls disclosed, and so again, there is a litmus test here. Having spent last two years integrating a whole suite of MVNE services to make the most complete MVNE service we were amazed how many services are not even using basic security, like SSL for portal and API access for example, how is an OEM going to trust a service like this with deep access to their OS, for example? 

MNOs have no need or requirement to support eSIM in short to medium term

The biggest issue however will be MNO resistance, as they really have no need for eSIM in the mainstream in the timescales that are above:
  • Handsets are getting bigger
  • The device ownership timescales are getting longer
  • MNOs have invested in significant retail and distribution presence

The upside to eSIM opportunity in the immediate term

The upside for MVNOs and MVNEs that can pass the tests above, is that the emerging opportunities are often too niche or too International/complex for the MNOs (e.g. multi IMSI). 

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

why Europe's MVNOs still sing

Europe's MVNOs still singing 7 years on...

Six years on from the original article, and 13 years on from the first European MVNO in the UK, the European market is still singing, fortunately!

MVNO market share Europe

Why is this? Well partly as written in my Future MVNO article of a couple of weeks back; Europe is on the higher side of the highest MVNO % of MVNO market share, and that's a big deal. So if one MVNO in one country can represent as much as all the MVNOs in other countries, there is still a long way to go, and every indication that wholesale can represent much higher market share in mobile as it does in other markets. 
W. Europe is at the higher end of high MVNO market share

While Europe and the US are far ahead of the rest of the world, Europe is far ahead of that, with the UK at 14% MVNO market share, and countries such as Denmark, with Telmore MVNO at 800,000 customers in Denmark... and only 3 people live in Denmark! (I lie, its actually 5.5M...) which makes high double digit MVNO market share for just its biggest MVNO!

Why European MVNOs sing

So what contributes to the European MVNO flurry? Well, in order:

GSM MVNO

The GSM network gives Europe a strong advantage, whereas the first MVNOs in the US were using CDMA, CDMAs have lower yield and lower margin and the switch of a handset is a churn catalyst in CDMA, whereas in GSM MVNOs changing handsets is just a churn opportunity

MVNOs and handset

The buoyant handset market has contributed heavily, in countries like the UK sponsored by MNOs, in countries like Italy funded entirely by the user, and in the UK the iPhone phenomenon saw premium rates. When the iPhone launched in the US it was yours unlimited for $22 per month, in Europe the compulsory extra unlimited data bundle for iPhones was not far from that alone!

MNO MVNO dynamic

The MNOs paid quite a lot for 3G licences, and needed to amortise this investment - wholesale has become the MNO cash cow in Europe, and the above factors allow this to be quite a milk machine!

European MVNO market

The European MVNO market is diverse: despite the "common market" coming in to place an embarrassing amount of time ago, Europe is very, very far from a "common market" - Roaming is still a chore, and 9% of Europeans live in another member state, yes 9%: the niche is the MVNOs friend and Europe is full of niche markets

Original why Europe's MVNOs still sing Article (2007)

RE: Why Europe's Mobile Start-ups Sing

Different markets require different business and marketing models
I was sent an article from Business Week with the above title via email by a client; one of those nice comforting articles that make you feel you have made the right choice by doing many of the things that are in the article as they preach is right, with the added smugness of feeling you are doing something a little extra they have not twigged yet!
They are right in that one MVNO model is the low cost route, however there are more important keys I have seen, from behind the scenes, that have made or broke MVNOs in Europe:
  • One is a good network deal: Never underestimate the value of good advice before embarking upon something as hard to chew as an MVNO. There is no point keeping other costs low, if your single most important cost base is inflexible. These situations remind me of heavy industries with inflexible human resource, only instead of being an inevitable legacy issue, it is more a best avoided product of "staff from legacy networks" issue, which brings me to the next point;
  • One's thinking behind an MVNO has to change, it is not a mini Mobile Network: It has to be approached carefully, and its business model needs to be audited by all those involved.
And this is where the otherwise spot on article loses the thread: it comes to the opinion that the only MVNO model is "no frill" and that the US MVNOs are missing this entirely. Both of these are wrong in my opinion:
  • Firstly, "no frills" is not the only MVNO model for Europe; it is just the only one that has managed to master the two points above: thinking differently and keeping costs low. However, there have been casualties, both of which had the "no frills" model that the article preaches, but made both of the grave errors above.
  • Secondly, "no frills", like many European models, is not a model for the US; just look at the all popular iPhone as an example: In the US, AT&T are selling the iPhone for as little as $59 per month. For that you get the all important iPhone, unlimited data, 5000 off-peak minutes, 200 SMS and 450 inclusive minutes... As the iPhone launches in Europe, and more specifically the UK, I very much doubt it will be had for £25 per month, let alone with unlimited data (although on 2.5G only, "unlimited" is not that much!). Where is this going? In the US, mobile, like most consumer goods, is already "no frills" in price, so MVNOs in the US have to compete on other VAS, like the examples of Healthcare in my now ageing but once best selling Next Gen MVNO report... and for those of you thinking this is a plug, its not, its worse; its a "I told you so" ;-)!.
The real MVNO models are yet to come, and while in Europe they will definitely have to be competitive on price, in both the US and in Europe, and the Rest of the World, customers buy, recommend and repeat purchase on many things above price, and I would suggest even the successful "no frills" MVNOs, when you scratch below the surface, have succeeded on qualities offered to their customers beyond price.

posted by Christian Borrman 11:26am 25/09/07

Monday, 21 January 2013

Nokia 5500 output


Original 2005 article support page for the Healthcare MVNO:


It's hard to imagine now that Apple has made us believe that it re-invented everything, again, and again. but in 2006 this little sub £200 smartphone had text to speech and motion sensors, etc. And was able to deliver the health / healthcare MVNO back then. Whereby my health insurance provider then gave me a usb pedometer, and still tries to make me use another brand of heart rate monitor, simple phones like this, and now any smartphone can provide a proper health diagnostic and reward healthy, active customers. There were then people with prototype Bluetooth blood sugar, blood pressure, heart rate and other healthcare devices. Moreover for me: the Garmin watch, etc was invented, I could finally track my sports. Note to self - not really improved that performance much...

NOKIA 5500 FITNESS APPLICATION OUTPUT
Screenshot of pace in km/h from Nokia 5500

Testing the Nokia 5500, went for a run with it in the back pocket of my running shorts rather than using the belt that Nokia recommend for the device to work, but it still gave a pretty accurate result, albeit distorted by the fact that it starts from when you start the device, which if you are like me, is about 5 mins before you actually get out and start jogging... in any case, these results were sent via MMS, as email did not work, but there is a program to upload this to the PC. The text automatically saved to my run diary was:
Name: Running 1:13 pm
Duration: 00:34:25
Distance: 6.29 km
Avg.speed: 11 km/h
Calories: 475 kCal
Steps: 4814
The application can also use a Bluetooth GPS accessory for true accuracy.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Future MVNOs and future MVNO models

Future MVNO

The future of MVNOs has been a long time coming, however there is still a long way to go, and the activity of 2012 shows that we are in for a very interesting 2013 MVNO wise, which will reflect well for the Telegeography predictions for 2013
There is still huge untapped opportunities in MVNO
However there are two things that strike me from this:

Mature MVNO market share

Market share in mature markets such as the UK, arguably the most mature as it was the first MVNO market and the two big originators of the MVNO; Virgin Mobile and Tesco Mobile, now have way above the W. European average at 13.7% of the market just to themselves, down from over 14% the previous year.
Source: Informa Mobile media 2011, EE market estimate Innovation Observatory Research
The above Diagram has been used by EE in their MVNO address for the past few years, and hints at huge potential in the MVNO market, but as an MNO presentation only touches the bigger picture. 

MVNO Brand Segmentation

If we dig deeper, as I do when doing the marketing plan and product development for new MVNOs, we see that each segment of the MVNO market to date, even markets that claim to be overcrowded  like the Ethnic, Supermarket and Brand MVNO space, are not actually overcrowded at all:
Segmenting even mature, overcrowded MVNO sectors shows there is still a lot of opportunity
For example, the overcrowded Ethnic MVNO market in the UK is not in fact overcrowded at all; the big players' competitive analysis shows that they have saturated certain markets (probably 20 of the 258 countries) and certain demographics, but far from the whole sector. The same rings for the Supermarket MVNO and even the Brand MVNO space, the above date has been randomised and renamed to protect the innocent, but am more than happy to give anybody the template with the date, use the MVNO contactify link to get in touch.

Updated Future MVNOs

So what is left to do in the below? Well the answer is quite a lot: 
  • Music is still in the pre-wholesale strategic sign-up phase, as is content, but you can expect the whole audio, video and other content market (think Red Bull MVNO model) to mature and expand.
  • Data MVNO has expanded, with Dell and Lenovo doing a Laptop based deal, Kindle in ebooks, Tom Tom for GPS and the whole M2M space
  • Healthcare has been successful in the US, and has lots of promise globally, with even Telefonica restructuring in 2012 to include a whole m-health vertical, which probably means its still in "the MNO can do it" mode, however this will soon change as MNOs dip their toes into the water via MVNOs
  • Converged MVNOs are really coming, with Virgin Media adding 1 Million Tivo boxes to its 4 Million mobile customers and presumably even more broadband, expect a wider definition of convergence than we may expect is all I can say...
  • The Global MVNO is also coming, however as we can see from the top graph, it needs the disparity between the various markets to meet, or at least more markets to reach the 10% MVNO market share for it to kick off.

Original Future MVNOs Article 2008:

Future MVNOs

Future Mobile Virtual network business Models
There are many upcoming MVNOs in the pipeline, however they are very different; they seem to be more mature, building on a core business proposition and mobile as a channel, rather than playing directly in the mobile space with a brand. For me the hottest MVNO prospects are:
  • Music MVNOs, with wholesale data and even "all you can eat" data tariffs emerging but being slow to take-up, this model could work well. However, it will not be download as much as you like to a "free Nokia N91". It is more likely to take the form of an established music brand enabling either an On Device Portal to browse, find and purchase music, even download a certain amount of lower quality/realtone tracks immediately over 3G, but the general ideal will be to download and save them on a PC or shared network space and upload them to the device by memory card or even USB connection. As an advocate of wireless & mobile I have found it difficult to admit, but the fact is that MP3s over bluetooth, 3G and even Wi-Fi, just don't make for a great user experience, nor aid battery life - the spanner in many mobile cogs!
  • Data MVNOs, building on mobile broadband, either by reselling or repackaging existing services, such as O2 mobile broadband, which is already resold by many players in the business as a service provider or enhanced service provider by hardware resellers, M2M providers and other solution providers and system integrators; or more complex solutions, which may or may not creep over into other areas above and below, such as hardware MVNOs.
  • Healthcare: the opportunities are huge: I pay a handsome sum of money every month to an insurance company, less now I have filled in various profiles... the next step is for my insurer to give me a Nokia 5500, which could easily be paid for and more with my insurance, and which uploads my daily footsteps info to their database to reduce my premium when I exercise regularly. To see the output a healthcare MVNO would see from a Nokia 5500 click here. A lot easier than the pedometer my Health Insurance gives me now, and a proper MVNO revenue opportunity.
  • Content MVNO. The content MVNO can work, despite the demise of ESPN, but it will be based on data usage with maybe an On Device Portal or a custom OTA firmware, where the "Vodafone Live" button starts the customer experience, rather that custom handset, and the business model will be around the value of that content, rather than trying to compete on minutes with the network; it has to be a content blackberry in terms of user take-up.
  • Global MVNO. There has been little talk of this model, and so far we have just seen a few SIM based products, however, there is a huge market for the global traveller  from big city banker to individual consultant with passport, will travel, all the way down to interailing youth. There are many VAS that can be added to this model, from student info to VoIP or even just automated calling card applications.
  • Converged MVNO. People have Skype, Dect phones, mobile phones, work IP phones, work analogue phones, SOHO phones, IM, SMS, uncountable emails, some web, some on exchange, some on their laptop/desktop... there is space for converged MVNOs in every sector, its just a question of who will move first, and watch everyone follow. Or Has Apple already led, and it will take the followers to not be so preoccupied with exclusivity and 40% to realise that convergence, and a X% of their mobile, broadband and roaming is a better deal...
  • More coming soon...
Originally posted by Christian Borrman 18:50pm 11/11/08

is there still value in MVNOs?


Original article

Is there value in MVNOs?

THE MODEL HAS TAKEN SOME STICK, BUT THE WHOLESALE MODEL DOES NOT DIE EASILY
I have received an email from Pyramid with this title. It is amazing, two year's after publishing "next generation MVNOs" that Pyramid finally ask if there is still value in the last generation MVNO... Well no; there was no value in them anymore in 2004 when I began writing the report, nor was there in 2005 when it was published, and there is less still today. Today's MVNO is a much leaner operation that its forerunners like Virgin. As successful as Virgin was, it was created in the late 90's when spending $20Bn on a 3G network weemed like a good idea. Today's MVNO should have now got down to a T the ideas I put forward in 2005, and the key to a successful MVNO or Mobile Virtual Network in 2007 and 2008 will be:
  • Handing over "legacy" cost bases to the host MNO or even the handset manufacturer. MNOs handle huge risk every month: every month the UK MNOs and even handset sellers put forward their forecasts for sales. To give an idea, Nokia UK typically sell 500,000 handsets every month in the UK, their best month was 2 million handsets... so even a few hundred thousand handsets up or down on a mobile network operator's book, or even a large manufacturer like Nokia, well is not a huge issue. However, put this discrepancy into every MVNO business plan I have seen, and I have seen most that have passed the UK MNO, consultancy or investment market, and the business model runs into problems. The MVNO opportunity today lies clearly in new markets, lots of niche markets the MNO and even handset manufacturer cannot / do not directly capture or target. If they want these markets, they can either sponsor a music festival or two at the cost of a few million, or they could spend the same or less managing handsets for niche MVNOs with direct sales as a result.
  • Niche, Niche and Niche; The MNO brand will only stretch so far, niche MVNOs can capture new markets or keep existing users.
  • MVNA: the MVNE will not punt on small players, MNOs will not punt on anyone but "the next Virgin", however there are millions of subscribers in the UK alone who have very strong ties with major brands, events, social movements, clubs and other would be MVNOs, who 10,000 subscribers here, 30,000 subscribers there, add up to 100,000s of subs put together. They may all be different, but they do have a few things in common: simpler tariffs, smaller handset selection, more focussed customer care. The MVNA is just around the corner.
  • Cost reduction; gone are the days of warehousing branded phones with custom software; the clever MVNO will "brand" the handset Over the Air (OTA), either with an On Device Portal or an OTA software upgrade
DIY MVNO. US company Sonopia are offering user the ability to set up an MVNO in 10 minutes and receive 5% of the revenue. While this article, reported on The Register suggests that this model may not be popular in Europe, where the handset, then the tariffs, not content, which I agree with, it does propose an interesting trend: That MVNOs should compete on something other than on handset or tariff to e competitive, and that network generated income should be a revenue stream, not the sole source of revenue for the MVNO business model. Having written, contributed to, carried out due diligence on many MVNO business models over the last 8 years, and in light of the failures of EasyMobile, it is clear to me that the post Virgin and Tesco MVNOs will need to leverage their brand, content and or other much more effectively, to counter the fact that economies of scale in this market are a thing of the past. Realistically, going forward MVNO need to base their business model on breaking even on 10,000s of customers, not the millions or 100,000s that the many jumping late on the MVNO bandwagon seem to band around. Competing on handset and tariff is the domain of the MNO, not the MVNO. Added to this, it will not be long before people realise how expensive network subsidised phones actually turn out to be and look to source their phone separately, to then focus on a "network" that offers them the content, services, or simply just the bitpipe for voice and text that the individual wants.

originally posted by Christian Borrman 06:50am 05/04/07

Monday, 24 September 2012

Solavei and Radioshack interesting new MVNO business models and next big MVNO

Some big occurrences in MVNO land recently:
  1. Over the weekend we had Solavei surfacing as live
  2. Over the holidays a new data MVNO Radioshack emerged
  3. We are working on the next big MVNO model :)
So, firstly up with Solavei, not only a new model, but also covered in Engadget and Allthingsd shows how mainstream MVNO is no becoming, in fact Engadget at least have been tracking the tag MVNO for nearly two years now.
Sadly Radioshack mobile was not about live tracking of their team... 
Radioshack makes a lot of sense as well, and begs the question why the likes of Maplin in the UK are not doing the same: the Maplin MVNO as per the Radioshack data MVNO, make a lot of sense for the sellers of hardware. There was a lot of speculation and leaks prior to launch,  as I had a suspicion they had done it just to enable team HTC style real live stats on races, which at the moment only Levi is doing as part of an association with mapmyride. Another equivalent in the UK/Europe would be Expansys, who rode the wave of mobile phone and gadget online growth from the middle of last decade, however at the time the MVNO model was not really ready for the MVNO, nor I suspect were the VC backers (I still have certain VCs throwing curve balls into MVNO discussions that they are adamant that MVNOs costs tens of millions of $ zzz...) wanting to invest in the MVNO model. VCs do not like investing in things they do not get 100%, and let's face it, not many people get MVNOs 100%, however in their defense, MNOs do not make VC investment easy with woolly clauses around assignment and commitments and ownership of customers, etc that restrict the sale value of any MVNO.

So back to the interesting models. Solavei are running an incentive scheme that we will all be watching very closely; both the fully inclusive model and the incentive to sign on other customers could be interesting, as long as the potential fraud elements are contained.

Radioshack is very interesting as, now online sales are prevalent in mobile, it levels the playing field somewhat for big brands like Radioshack, and the MNOs would be wise to jump on this one and engage these brands.

In terms of the interesting models we are working on, well you will have to wait and see! In the meantime, it is both great to see Engadget tagging MVNO as well as the likes of Allthingsd reporting on these developments, as it is refreshing to see the "next big things" coming through as MVNOs finally move out of "brands, supermarkets and ethnic". Even more interestingly, a lot of these will se the rise of MVNEs, at least in Europe where the direct MVNO roadmaps are congested to say the least...

Finally, we move onto the old topic of MVNO Marketing with Solavei being very refreshing indeed; in addition to the name sounding like Esperanto for "go solar" the marketing elements is definitely strong, as it the fact that Radioshack's core market may have been niche, everybody know's it via sponsoring cycling, just as the Sky brand is no enjoying a resurgence on the back of its Tour win, and announcing an MVNO is a not only a great way to advertise your mobile offering, but also the fact that Radioshack now sell more to more people, not just electronics kit's to the market that were the inspiration for the film "40 year old virgin".

So I leave you with my thoughts on MVNO marketing plans, a very popular thread that was reblogged by Prepaid MVNO among others, and an equally popular thread on personal brand MVNO. If you want to get these articles as they come, you can follow MVNO on Facebook, MVNO on Twitter or download our MVNO app and MVNO web app.

Monday, 21 May 2012

VAS, Facebook and the MVNO continued...

VAS MVNO, Facebook MVNO

As many of you will know, I feel quite passionately about VAS and the MVNO. This is not just an obsession, its just a realisation that any good business needs a tie-in, a value-add, a "something" that means it does not sell on price alone, and so when a newer, shinier competitor comes along, in order of preference the customer goes:
  1. ah, but, does shiny new things do, this? no, thought not - high value - major competitive advantage
  2. I would have to change the way I do all my...(insert VAS here) to work with the new service, medium value - useful advantage
  3. I would have to update all my details, low value - would just be a pain to move, like moving bank account or electricity provider
The problem is, most MVNOs, and even some MNOs are not even on point 3 level of VAS.

So why not? well there is a list of reasons why from a legacy perspective this was the case, however things are changing

The usual ways to leverage data was content, content, content. were an expensive portal, streaming video, etc, etc. These days are gone, and the proof is the above. Indeed the days were never there, the amount of conferences I have chaired, attended and spoken at where "content" was the supposed issue, and all I could say was, customers have content: its emails (blackberry proved this to be the case!) and the web in general, but on the mobile. 

Facebook is driving MVNO

The proof is hand is this article: showing that facebook access from mobile has now surpassed computer access. I am honestly not surprised. In fact, in app development focus groups even 3 years back, we saw that a good mobile app, like only apple had at the time (an app that did not look like a mobile web browser, allowed upload of images and push notifications, chat) managed to completely shift usage of Facebook from computer to mobile, while more basic ones and now the very good mobile web experience manage to take a good deal of it.

The reasons for this are multiple, 
  • many people do not have access to unrestricted internet access or facebook at work
  • most of those who do would rather not be seen using facebook at work
  • using Facebook on a PC raises probably more privacy issues as computers tend to be shared more and have more browsing history that people may not want plundering so facebook can make more advertising revenue
  • the key one however is convenience, Facebook, and indeed our digital lives, are now round the clock, constant streams of info, updates, feeds, chats and more: mobile just suits this better, whether its from a web browser or an app

VAS is driving MVNO data

In fact, everything that is driving MNO data, is driving MVNO data, unless as an MVNO you make data difficult, like by not having the world's most advanced OTA data APN settings :).

The key is, with it being so simple to get this working, why are so many MVNOs still rendering themselves as a low value, sim-swapping bitpipe when all they need to do is get APN settings set-up, and some simple data tariffs. As we have seen, most users are using less than 100mb per month anyway as per my previous article on this blog, and as per my blog on Apps and App stores showing that even the most basic MVNO type handsets that many MVNOs perceive their user base is using, which means MVNOs can still be very competitive with the average data prices I am seeing while negotiating MVNO agreements (at least the prices I have seen in the last 3-5 years) and/or ones that could be easily and quickly agreed with an MVNO if approached with a plan around social networking, rather than the usual "I need cheaper prices" routine :)


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Monday, 16 April 2012

Ad funded mvno business model and the MVNO industry summit

Ad funded MVNO 

As the MVNO summit is just around the corner; a question that is often asked and/or a comment often made in MVNO conferences is:
  • will MVNO business model X work in Y country/market, or
  • X MVNO business failed so that MVNO model does not work... 

Is the ad-funded MVNO model still viable?

The ad -funded model is one of them, and as such has been part of my new blogs and old legacy MVNO blog for a while and can be found here: MVNO business models. You then of course have the other end of the scale, usually those who argues against MVNOs from the beginning and have now had to swallow their words as MVNOs make bigger and bigger percentages of MNO bottom lines: people who say that MVNOs as a whole  don't work when one happens to fail! Back on the more moderate heckler  let's deal with One of the most frequent is that, if Blyk failed then the ad funded model does not work... This is just plain wrong on a few levels:
  1. 50% of all new businesses fail. In this respect, MVNOs are probably one of the best businesses you can invest in, as the failure rate is actually in single % figures in most countries over time. It has been higher, for example in France at first, when the regulator forced MVNOs, the result was that the network operator agreements were so restrictive that they strangled the first MVNOs... however they were all absorbed by the host MNO, so you could argue it was intentional: if they were proper failures the MNO would have set them out to dry rather than absorbing them. Blyk was also absorbed by its MNO - an MNO has full visibility of an MVNOs activities and potential, and they do not flog a dead horse!
  2. The "ad" is very generic. If you look at the add business over the last few years you will see most of the traditional spend has all but disappeared and been replaced with display ads, Blyk started with a model based on ads that suddenly went into decline.
  3. Mobile advertising is still in its infancy, it has been for 5 years, however this is now changing

Will the Brand MVNO, supermarket MVNO model, etc work in my country? 

In short, what does this mean? well it means that there has never been a better time to launch an ad funded business, as long as you are choosing the right type of ads, when to send them and, like any business, are careful how you spend and manage cash flow.

So, with the biggest MVNO summit to date, now extended to three days, let's make the MVNO Summit about where and how we are moving models like the ad funded model; add funded voice, data and SMS/MMS, to market in new countries, and maybe even take part in the MVNO challenge...

I will be adding to this list over the coming months, feel free to comment, like the  MVNO Facebook page, MVNO Google+ page or follow @MVNO_ on Twitter if you want to be notified of these updates

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Samuel Eto'o MVNO cameroon the first of many personal mvnos

A very interesting MVNO launch recently has been the launch of Samuel Eto'o Fils is to launch his own MVNO in his home country Cameroon.

before going into detail, I want to get across that is is important in many ways:

  1. It is in Africa, a continent that has been a world leader in many mobile developments, most so in mobile payments where there are multiple players in multiple regions, and as such the MVNO could server as an important enabler of new mobile technologies where the MNO can sometimes be slow, as well as the regulatory reform that most African countries are on the cusp or or in the midst of
  2. It is football, the football MVNO has been very slow to market for various reasons, too many to list here from the last 10 years, but the time is right for the football MVNO, as well as other affiliate MVNO schemes, however, what is important is that the right club, or in this case the right player initiates and sets the tone for others to follow, which brings me to
  3. It is the right player, in the right market; an older, respected player who is seen as a positive role model and has done lot's of well intended charity work, not just the token celebrity PR charity work, not just in Cameroon but further afield, whose "brand equity" will export to other countries, but has not chosen a crowded or too high profile market in which to launch
So far so good. Like with any MVNO, there are still pitfalls and the above are by no means a guaranteed recipe for success, however we start well, which is important.

African MVNO opportunity

The African market has been crying out for more MVNO activity for a while. It is a very interesting market where I have done quite a bit of work, from rolling out pan-African pre-pay TV, VAS aggregator and social networking products as well as other projects around pan African mobile payments: in short:
  • The market wants regulatory reform, is mostly there, it needs a vehicle to push it, VAS aggregation or app stores may push it, buy MVNOs would be better for everybody - from mobile number portability to single short-codes and numbers in every country to real pan African aggregators
  • The market wants more innovation, mobile payments got Africa off to a flying start, but a lack of dynamic vehicles is slowing it down. Once MNOs have got over the shock of MVNOs (usually about the time they see the amount of almost 100% EBITDA positive revenue they generate) they are also a fantastic platform for innovation that does not entrench the market where each operator mimics the other no matter what (GPRS, SMS, PTC, etc). That is, an MVNO in the states could have launched push to talk and would not have caused a de facto push of all MNOs to PTC, as it did with Nextel launching PTC: all that money later, where is PTC now??? 
Personal MVNO opportunity

The personal MVNO had to happen, it is a subset of the Brand MVNO opportunity and could work very, very well as
  • Consumers tend to grow stronger and more loyal followings than brands, and they do not tend to go out of fashion as soon as other brands do. 
  • They also lend themselves to a wider Value Added Services (VAS) opportunity, where the football club or other brand tend to use the MVNO as a brand extension for their core product, a person can easily endorse a wider range of products without diluting the proposition and as such keep the product fresher, more relevant, for longer. With Football based VAS we have rolled out for various MNOs and MVNOS we have seen subscriptions to footballers' feeds be much, much more loyal than those of clubs or leagues
  • Personalities tend to cross borders better than clubs, which at the end of the day are more "national". there is therefore more opportunity to export both the model and the brand itself.
  • people tend not to have a conflict: where a club may be sponsored or have links with an operator, a personal brand is seen as a "free agent".
However, having said this, the brand is important - it should be an inclusive brand. Eto'o does not spark a controversy or an objection; controversy may sell initially, but it does not expand well, nor attract the golden feature of any MVNO: loyalty. you also do not want a brand that even the most loyal fan may feel ashamed of or want to keep quiet at any moment. That is, with a club phone, you do not want it to ring when you are in a bar watching a game with a bunch of supporters from another team, or when you have beaten someone away... a player does not have that "exclusion".

So what will be key to personal MVNO success:
  1. Value added services, starting with the obvious (which should be for free) but moving beyond that
  2. Getting the right deals and partners: the MNO, MVNE and other contracts should not have the usual clauses that make it difficult for the MVNO to be traded, sold or floated or even ported, should it become too big or too different to what was expected and no longer fit either parties strategic needs. This is the case for any MVNO, but more so with ones like this which are firsts, and the unknowns are huge: this could easily attract 1 million or more of the Cameroon population, or could only have 50,000 subs after 3 years, even then, the spend, type of usage, handset preference and many more unknowns mean that any/all of the parties may outgrow or be outgrown by the product.
  3. keeping it simple and scalable: no personalised handsets, no VAS that cannot be scaled or retracted or need silly numbers to get ROI... the business model needs to work on many levels and adapt to the unkowns
If it does this we may well have out next MVNO model darling, and it will be all about the brand again... bless :)

I shall be adding more in the coming months and pasting updates vai the Virtuser Google+ and Virtuser Facebook pages, so please like us on Facebook and +1 us if you have found this article interesting, useful or helpful. 

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Free entry to French Mobile market

Free MVNO France

Are MVNOs Free in France?

Its an interesting twist on words, calling a new operator "free" but that is a comment for a coffee later. And no, the answer is nothing is free in France, you pay for everything, even being an MVNO :)

What is interesting is the MNOs starting to see the strain of Free. When Virgin Mobile was launched in the UK a similar trend occurred, whereby many people had just had enough of  the complexity and uncertainty of spend on traditional tariffs. In this sense, Virgin Mobile had close to 2 million customers when it had expected to have 200,000.

So what does this mean for MVNOs? In reality these people are the early adopters / first movers. Those whose dissatisfaction with their present offering is so strong that they will take anything new on the market. This is an interesting phenomenon I have seen from my last few MVNO launches in mature markets, whereby you can allow for a certain take-up, sometimes even a breakeven figure of users, to be attracted to a new network just by addressing a niche well enough to capture a single digit percentage or even percentile of a mature market's monthly mobile churn.

So what does the MNO do when and MVNO has its breakfast?

So these were the first movers. In the next two years we will see the me-too's and followers follow, typically 70-80% of any given market, and these will be best attracted by mainstream, niche and other MVNOs that successfully target and attract users from any given market segment that the MNO itself is weak in. So this is a clear sign that French MNOs need to open up to wholesale and capture these niches as strategically and innovatively, and as quickly, as possible.

In many MVNO business models, I have had this element of customer attraction, which I call "churn soak-up" at anything between 5% and 40% of an MVNOs take-up in the critical first 6 to 9 months of operation. The amount of take-up is directly proportional to how well this MVNO business plan, brand, product and proposition addresses a niche, and to some extent how much and what type of marketing is done to address the market and the strength of the MVNO's brand. If you are willing to invest the time (and some money) in getting both the brand and the proposition right and targeting the brand/proposition well (all within sensible SAC margins) then this element of take-up can be in the double digits of growth and soaking up significant percentages of churn in a market.

Update 2013, post 2012 networking conference in Paris: The host MNO did nothing, another MNO took the two biggest MVNOs as full MVNOs on their network! as the Dutch (KPN) say: wholesale is better than no sale!

The flipside? when done well, these customers stay with the MVNO brand that successfully addresses  the niche, long after they have churned from the "rebound" operator, in this the rebound fling is Free in France :) (yes I got to one of the amusing twists of its name :)

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

MVNO VAS

VAS or Value Added Services were once the darling of planet MNO mobile operator, to some extend they still are, only now we seem to have forgotten all the original VAS and just focus on thenew ones like app stores. Then along came the MVNO, the new darling of Mobile, then it went from retail to wholesale and in the fracas we seem to have lost Value Added Services in the MVNO space.

There are a few reasons for this:


Click here to read on

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

MVNO Networking Paris Congress Chair Digest 2011

MVNO Networking Congress 2011 (November) Digest

The MVNO networking congress was a great event, and a very successful one too, just the week before Jayme contacted me to let me know I would be chairing 13 presentation instead of 8, so the schedule was “tight” to say the least!

The MVNO Conference Overview

For those of you who just want the low down, you can see some of the Twitter comments on your left, and my closing bullets were:
  • We have seen and continuing to see significant growth in MVNO, so far we have only touched the surface, even in the overcrowded ethnic and low costs space
  • MVNO churn is the lowest in pretty much every market
  • VAS are key: Data, payments, Social Networking, all generating more value, loyalty and even contributing to any MRG
  • Channels are expanding: social, online, new retail
  • MVNO growth is now starting in value, as well as size due to previous points

MVNO networking Conference 2012 Presentations:

The intro was pretty quick, I am not big on long intros of the conference of the speakers: speakers bios are so random in their content (we should have top trumps card in the audience if you want to check out bios that are structured instead of random details and regional quirks…) and I think the audience is there to see presentations, so don’t make them wait for presentations… on that note below is my summary, in order to not name names or other anti-social behaviour I do not list by presenter and company but by relevant info. As an Englishman I will no doubt have to engage in some hooliganism afterwards to make up for such sensible and neighbourly behaviour J.

MVNO Networking Conference “highlights”:

  • 6 million MVNO customers in France, 50% increase in 2010-2011
  • Churn is generally lower in MVNOs (3 sources, 2 continents)
  • Annual MVNO churn in France is sub 20% (annual!)
  • MVNO customers 14% of UK Market
  • “Wholesale is better than no-sale” Old KPN quote was reborn in a pres, good to see!
  • One non-full MVNO going full MVNO to have more control over VAS and data provisioning infrastructure as data becomes a key part of their differentiation and marketing strategy
  • Another non-full MVNO going full to be able to potentially leverage multiple hosts (not advised, so many MNVOs forget that their host is like their big brother in the playground – even if you do not like him and he may not even care much for you, but if you are on good terms, he can save you getting a wedgie or a swirlie) i.e. you will generally get more from an engaged single MNO than you would ever get by trying to trade MNOs off against each other. This is the case even at initial negotiation stage.
  • On this note we had an MNO likening the MVNO to a clown fish and the operator to the sea anemone, with one protecting the other from the rest of the creatures (sharks) in the sea… This MNO is actively seeking clownfish!
  • The MNO used to use the MVNE as a filter, now more flexible and used as a solution
  • La Poste has 2.2 Million customers in Italy, looking to move to full MVNO due to scale, it is a “buy” vs. “make” strategy.
  • La Poste MVNO have the lowest churn in Italy.
  • 50% of La Poste customers have made a mobile payments transaction via the card linked with the mobile account.
  • Colruyt supermarket MVNO launched in Belgium, a la Tesco Mobile model: the key is a line from the music industry “once a hit, always a hit” if a model has been successful in one country, it is likely to do the same in another, again and again.
  • MVNOs managed to make a “per min” and “per message” business back in a “bundle” market space, they are doing the same in data, charging a premium in “per meg” data. In Denmark the main MVNO is doing this at a premium of 2.5x market rate.
  • Online is the key channel to avoid “shelf overload”. The customer now has so much choice in the typical retail establishments. Telmore has reached 800,000 subscribers in Denmark (over 12% of Danish market in just one MVNO) mostly via online.
  • If not online, other innovative channels are required, especially in places like the Austrian market, where €10 gets you 1000 mins and 1000 SMS, an MVNO has to do more than just traditional channels.
  • Social Networking is becoming a key differentiator
  • Some interesting comments on the EC Roaming regulation (its all relative, they were interesting as roaming regulation comments, but not interesting enough for a blog!) but if someone is interested enough I can dig them out...