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

Saturday, 2 December 2017

MVNO Gold Rule #2 - Own The Customer, Sensibly and cost effectively

MVNO HLR Own the Customer

In the early days of the MVNO a prevailing thought was that an MVNO needed to own the Home Location Register (HLR) in order to won the customer, which in a sense is true, however there are much more important ways of owning the customer rather than just the HLR, some of which actually challenges the ownership of the HLR, however these all need taking in context.

Customer touch points

Owning the customer is much more than an HLR, or a database - its owning the experience of all customer touch points
The most important customer ownership points come from actually owning the customer relationship, that means charging, self-care, as well as the usual sales and marketing.

Owning the customer means owning the customer experience across the whole user journey:

  1. Marketing, customer acquisition and brand (everybody gets that, mostly)
  2. Self-care: is your brand empowering, low-cost or care centric? Is mobile your first or a complimentary brand, is mobile your core business or a loss leader, all these points will influence how you want to care for the customer.
  3. HLR, GGSN, DPI, PCRF, IVR, if you can own these, not for the sake of it, you can differentiate a product more, but they are not essential and do not differentiate a service by itself
  4. Customer care

Self-care owned by MVNO

Some of the early legacy platforms had rebrandable self-care platforms for the MVNO-in-a-box oxymoron that circulated: The very essence of an MVNO is to differentiate itself from the MNO, but also other MVNOs, so the very concept of an MVNO in a box is a misnomer and dead end for anything other than a small scale trial. To own the customer you need to at least own the first level touch points along the value chain after the initially obvious sales and marketing, and they begin in the self care. No matter what you skimp on as an MVNO, you need to own this experience.

So many early MVNOs tried this, in fact even MNOs did this in the early days when online sales were below 1% of sales, MNOs outsourced the whole online sales to third parties, but these times were different, they were pre phishing and the internet was full of pages with active gifs galore, in today's internet world, it is just not acceptable to be transported off to another site to look after a customer, in a very generic way. 

Also, while an MVNO may be able to launch with a "patchware" selfceare service, as the product evolves this approach will either become a change request hell or mean the product cannot evolve as it grows from early adopter, to follow sales to mass market.

In short, caring for the customer is part of owning the customer and that experience cannot be "out of the box" if you want any hope of doing it properly.

Payment gateways need to be owned by the MVNO

Another point some MVNOs try to skimp on or MVNEs try to over supply is with is payment gateways. an MNO or MVNE should never be taking payments on behalf of a brand. These days of multiple start-ups providing payment gateways the MVNO needs to integrate the legacy (old bank run gateways) the new (start-up payment processors) and the in betweens like Paypal (many people sell their old handsets on ebay), as well as be integrating with Apple and Android payments for realtime notifications and updates of bundles, top-ups, and other billing related events.

Handset and SIM Configuration

Some OTA APN services are so bad they take up as much as 50% of customer service times, this is not good. This means 50% of ARPU disappearing in a way that does not own, but rather disown the customer.

SIMs are also a key touch point. There is no point spending half your customer acquisition cost on a glossy SIM and SIM pack (the latter of which goes straight in the bin) if every time someone looks at their phone it says something other than who you are, and the SIM menu is some generic afterthought.

Customer care

Virgin Mobile UK was voted best UK Network Operator for 13 years in a row by Mobile Choice Magazine, while its mostly then identical host, One 2 One, then T-Mobile, etc. was mostly voted the worst! One 2 One's service was so bad that another UK brand refused to launch with them and the MNO moniker was one 2 no-one. Virgin knew that by owning customer service (and selfcare) they could change this, and they did, by also keeping its MVNO simple so when you called their well trained staff could answer your question in one call with one agent.

Owning customer care is also the only way to control rising costs to serve, which can kill MVNOs if left unchecked as they scale.

Apple, owning the customer vs owning the customer via the HLR

When doing workshops with MVNOs, the key is to make people think proactively about issues, as running an MVNO, or even an MVNE is hard; mobile is complex and issues will arise daily that on some occasions can seem like mountains to surpass that threaten the very existence of the MVNO in question. If an MVNE team does do not learn to help its MVNO, and more importantly the MVNO does not learn to see the wood for the trees, then it simply will not survive.

So yes, a simple way to own the customer is to own the HLR, and if the service is not sufficiently differentiated, then owning the HLR does effectively own the customer, however the out of the box challenge goes like this: At first, Apple's iPhone was only sold by one mobile network in each country. In the US it was AT&T, in the UK it was O2 Telefonica, etc. Before the other networks in each country started also selling iPhones, these operators had millions and millions of customers. You therefore have to ask yourself - if AT&T or O2 had lost the iPhone exclusive, how many of those customers would have stayed and kept their SIM with another phone on that network??? The answer is none, literally. Apple does not own an HLR, or even a basic reseller model, what it owns is the touch points like selfceare...

DPI, IVR, etc

While these services can help you differentiate, if you just use them to give away free WhatsApp or use an off the shelf IVR menu tree that has loads of options customers really do not need nor wish to waste their time listening to, then what is the point. These really should be owned by the right customer, and most probably in house and not part of the MVNE as they need to be so focussed at your user journey they really do not "MVNO in a box" at all well, as bad an idea that is for other services as it is.
cost to serve

If you need any more convincing, why does Apple not let resellers play with the software? Why does Samsung insist on playing with Android and adding its own look and feel?

Friday, 26 September 2014

Driving effective data revenue and reducing cost to serve MVNO

Well it has been a while since my last post, but I have been in the thick of working with major FSTE, NASDAQ, AIM and other quoted MVNOs and would be MVNOs and its difficult to blog when you are dealing with sensitive work, especially when a person on a team from another consultancy who shall remain nameless spreads rumours that you may have published the MVNO marketing strategy on your blog but failed to notice the post was from 2 years previous to even working with them :). Well done that man!

So, this post is about two critical points of being a successful MVNO and how this can be easily achieved in today's major trend for growth, and to publish some slides on the point that I presented back at the MVNO Dynamics London event earlier this year, those of you who attended will already have this presentation and heard it live.
Presentation originally done at
We have been building MVNOs for longer than anybody out there and seen all the trends, from international voice to SMS and now data is taking another surge. With each new surge comes problems, as wholesale generally follows a second wave on raw material costs (in this case wholesale data rates) and has to deal with "me too" and "mass market" customer issues without usually having thousands of staff and retail stores to absorb (and hide the true cost) to serve this mass market.
Virtuser has been doing MVNOs longer than anybody; we have seen all the trends come and grow! (go) 
Just a brief history of how we got here. We do not just do MVNOs, we have also done a lot of mobile apps and mobile app stores for the likes of Nokia, Vodafone, Telefonica and more. We enable the world's first OTA distribution for specific handsets, the worlds first mass distributed apps and the worlds first Cloud based service sending our now competitors' OTA settings. We started doing our own settings when our clients were disappointed at the poor (30% to 40%) success rate of the standard OTA settings profile. We are still seeing this today where static OMA Alliance settings are sent.
We understand the full 360 of mobile data and MVNOs better than anybody; and this shows in the quality of our OTA
There are two critical points therefore in enabling data revenues - First you need to get the right settings easily on the handset, MVNO APNs do not generally come on a handset, as MVNOs do not buy nor subsidise handsets on mass, so you are stuck with OTA or "over the Air" configurations, but not all settings are created equal. In the old days they were all send by SMS, but handset fragmentation has meant that there are multiple ways depending on the device OS
Static OMA Alliance settings are only 40% to 50% effective, and create a huge cost to serve burden. the average MVNO customer care call for MVNOs in the UK is around £4!
Furthermore this is compounded by different versions of OS having different OTA experiences. Some of our competitors started using mobile apps to configure phones back in 2010 in the aftermath of the "app boom". however our work with mobile apps and mobile apps stores had taught us a few things the main one being that while mobile apps maybe mainstream, a very large proportion of smartphone users still get someone else to load and install apps for them, or do not download them at all.
The user experience of a previous client using standard OMA alliance static settings
Even if you do stick to standard SMS, you should never use a commercial SMS gateway, but if you do go for high quality over costs and do a huge amount of testing, as we can see here the character set was causing the OTA link to fail, after the customer had been forced onto a computer, to enter the phone number, incur and SMS, then for nothing... what will this customer do? call you call centre and cost you probably more than you earn in profit from them in 1 to 2 months!
Having worked extensively on MNO and MVNO data revenue driving initiatives we understand the importance of 3 clicks!
You should never have a data enabling service that means the experience varies significantly from device to device, nor any experience that takes more than 3 clicks if you want it to drive mass adoption. So this is what Virtuser has done with the OTA APN settings, and created the most advanced APN data settings available.
The same client user experience on Virtuser; the real cost is only found in the end result!
Its simple, keep it simple, but most off all keep the experience as uniform as possible across devices, as a) people change handsets or have multiple handsets on different OS and b) they usually ask someone for help, who may well have a different OS.
The results of good user Experience, uniform service, and bespoke settings for thousands of handset/OS combinations built on the fly (the most advanced OTA APN platform) is significantly increased data revenues and an affordable cost to serve.
If you serve dynamic settings, in an automated but controlled fashon, with a uniform and well thought out manner then the benefits are huge and data traffic is presently in the 100s of Mb per user per month in MVNOs across the developed world, so what are you waiting for???

We have been a trusted advisor and service provider of the most successful MVNOs, MVNEs, MVNAs and MNOs for over 13 years, and stepped in to do this presentation at the last moment when the planned speaker let Ramy and MVNO dynamics down at the last moment. Obviously Ramy knew who to call; if you want the best data settings, are thinking of becoming an MVNO or just want the presentation in full (I have cut our some operational slides) then you can see more on the Virtuser OTA APN Settings page or contact me to discuss either via this page (middle right of this page) or via the Virtuser Mobile OTA APN website.

Monday, 21 May 2012

VAS, Facebook and the MVNO continued...


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 :)

If you like this article, please like us on facebook/mvnos or follow us / +1 on Google+ and of course follow us on twitter @MVNO_ 

If you want to discuss how you can enable data revenues for your MVNO or MNO wholesale department then use the contactify link at the top right of this page and get in touch

Tuesday, 7 February 2012


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