Original Article 2007Apple Global MVNO
Apple deal with operators is a de facto hardware MVNO
It is no secret that a typical MVNO may only manage to get a 10% to 40% margin on calls, onto which it has to add its costs. This is usually OK, as many of these have either already been sunk, written off or are as low as they can go if the MVNO core business is already a “no frills” card calling or other related business. However, it is still said margin before costs. It is, therefore no surprise that the most successful MVNOs so far have been “no frills” MVNOs as reported in by Business week in this article and as per my response below (previous article; RE: Why Europe’s MVNOs sing).
As far back as 2003, when I started writing my next generation MVNO report, I had the hardware MVNO as one of the next big business models. The two main contenders were Apple and Dell. Dell fell victim, in the UK at least, to Vodafone’s deal with Intel to give away 3G data cards with every Centrino laptop in exchange for merely signing a direct debit for the Vodafone SIM inside it. The Apple MVNO, however, has finally come to bear fruit, and in a way nobody could imagine: It is a Virtual, Virtual MVNO, as according to these articles in the Financial Times and the BBC, it has managed to get between 10% and 40% margin for all the iPhones, and on top of it no costs. The extra burden of billing, one of the biggest costs for an MVNO, is borne by the host network operator, as it’s the second major cost: customer care. Furthermore, it has managed to do what very few MVNOs have managed to date, export the model to become a global MVNO. To boot, its business plan manages to overcome the other great hurdle to any MVNO expansion: handset subsidies; as people are falling over themselves to buy an iphone, something to date that only Nokia and Sony Ericsson have managed to do with a premium handset to date (8800, 8210, N95, P800, P900, etc). You have got to hand it to Apple, they have pulled off the biggest MVNO coup to date. There is one final even more surprising fact, no, not that they managed it without my help (apart from buying a copy of my report): The biggest surprise is how they have managed to actually get the MNOs to bid against them, rather than the usual beauty contest that building an MVNO entails. Mobile Network Operators have not been in that seat since they managed to bid UK and Germany 3G licences into the billions. So how have they managed that? It’s simple, due to the nature of the way networks were set-up, in larger economies there are networks that are predominantly focussed at a certain demographic. In the UK, the larger part of the youth market is on o2. However, it will not have escaped any of the networks that they could have poached a good few of the other’s customers.
So, for the record virtual mobile network operator, means 10-40% plus costs; virtual, virtual mobile operator means 10% to 40% with no costs, well at least if you are Apple.
Orignally posted by Christian Borrman 11:26am 25/09/07