Showing posts with label MVNO channels to market. Show all posts
Showing posts with label MVNO channels to market. Show all posts

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Converged MVNO

Original Converged MVNO article 2008:

Converged MVNOs

Convergence and the Mobile Virtual Model work well together, in principle
I once set-up a converged MVNO with my own hard-earned cash, that was in 2001... It seems that this model is now about ready for market! However, it is a very different model and a very different market.
In 2001 I set up a converged MVNO based on business use, where the primary focus was voice, as other such as bluephone, then BT fusion were focused on voice. However, the focus has now shifted to data; the reason? One is that regulators have pushed down roaming charges, the other is that users are more savvy and have multiple phones. The real reason is that voice, which is what GSM was invented to do, not data, is very effective over licensed spectrum, with multiple slots giving high(ish!) quality, and within the present price landscape, the ability to "bargain bucket". That is, there is nothing stopping any mobile operator bundling more and more minutes to squeeze out converged competition, at least in the single-country environment in which spectrum is licensed.
Data, however, is a different matter, with the idea that we will all be walking around watching IPTV, downloading MP3s, email attachments, pictures and videos, while having a video call... well the licensed spectrum bandwidth is just not there, at any price.
It is an interesting twist that just 7 years after I first spoke at 3GSM Cannes and caused silence over my intention to push email and voice over Bluetooth in offices, a silence caused by the imminent threat of losing money, that you can download an application called truphone for free to do just that over wi-fi, you can get your email over the mobile network via blackberry, using sms that are not charged for... and nobody is making the money that I was offering the host mobile networks (MNO) back then by operating a converged MVNO.
There are converged MVNOs however, and many MVNOs have invested in broadband in order to facilitate the already undertaken testing and research, some examples:
  • O2 have bought Be, one of the better broadband ADSL2+ providers, the parent Movistar already has Broadband
  • Orange have bought Wanadoo, multinational
  • Vodafone not only have broadband, but also host the BT converged MVNO, one of only a few commercially available
  • Cingular, Bell, Orange, Vodafone, and many others were testing the earliest convergence products by 2002 and 2003, shortly after I began testing them in 2001
However, there have been very few commercially rolled out services:
  • BT Fusion, was Bluphone, to a small UK MVNO audience
  • Tesco in simple VoIP format
  • Bell have rolled out trials, but it has not been the next mobile killer application a la PTT by a long shot
  • ... hopefully coming soon
originally posted by Christian Borrman 18:51pm 07/05/08, last updated 13;11 25/05/08

Apple Global MVNO

Original Article 2007

Apple 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

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

mvno from a customer acquisition perspective

MVNO from a Customer Acquisition Perspective

One thing that is often overlooked by MVNOs is to look at the MVNO from the customer's perspective. This is important, as one of the quickest routes to failed MVNO bin is to create a mini-me mobile network, as you essentially create a product that has no differentiation  but somebody else's version has much more marketing, retail presence, support, existing customers, etc.

The customer perspective is an important reminder if the fact that as an MVNO, while you are a partner of one MNO, you are a competitor of the other MNOs, other MVNOs on your host network, and more importantly, your host MNO if you are not careful. Why is this important? Never lose site of the fact that tmobile he wholesale business is all about acquire customers, a

MNO to the Customer

The MNO's routes to market before the MVNO were typically either direct, via a retail store, which may or may not be its own now and via a service provider, see the red and red/blue sections below. Essentially, for the MNO, the MVNO (and MVNA) has allowed the MNO to reach a wider customer base (grey section) than the MNO ordinarily would have. The MVNA is critical, as it is the "last mile" attracting the most niche markets. The triangular shape of the MVNA indicates how the MVNA is where the most bleeding edge activity is happening  such as micro-MVNOs with just a Facebook page, where the brand almost belongs to its customers, and customers may go from brand to brand.

MVNO to the customer

The MVNO to the customer route is important as the MVNO has to realise that, while they may have an angle to their niche, they also have strong competition from a) the network operators, who have shiny marketing, and b) that a customer is by now a complex beast, and other MVNOs and indeed, smaller niches from MVNAs may be equally attractive.

Moreover, it is important for the MNO and MVNO to be honest about which customers in a niche they are better at attracting and maintaining. You, the MVNO, may own a niche lock stock and smoking barrel, however by the time you get to a customer who wants a subsidised iPhone and unlimited texts, data and voice... its it not better to pass that customer on your your host MNO as a lead???? 

Customer to the MVNO

Why is the customer going to chose your product? If you just rebrand an MVNO, what value are you adding? Do not underestimate small value adds, sometimes the simplest things like customer care in your language is enough, and key: its a differentiator!

I reality, if we look at the grey customer section, it goes from niche on the far left, to mass market on the right.

Original MVNO from customer perspective page

MVNO DEFINED FROM A CUSTOMER PERSPECTIVE

To Fully understand the MVNO, and moreover Next Generation MVNOs, we have to look outside the legacy network led definitions of an MVNO, as an MVNO is customer driven, and therefore business driven business model. From a customer perspective both the MNO and the MVNO are their "Network Provider". That is Virgin Mobile is seen to its customer as their network provider, not the host MNO, just as an MNO is seen as a network provider. The benefit here for the MNO is sales without marketing spend, but more often than not sales the MNO was unlikely to reach on its own.
A service provider, or airtime provider would be like Martin Dawes in the UK for example, which was one of the originally mandated airtime providers in the UK; here, both the host 'MNO' and the 'Service Provider' are seen to provide the service to the customer. This was sometimes confusing, and of little value-add to the customer, with the only differentiation coming in the shape of price and maybe some differentiated billing. In general however, the customer seems to prefer a single brand. The same is the case for the "powered by" model - the customer does not care  which MNO powered their MVNO, they have already chosen their "network". Hence Virgin Mobile being voted the best network every year in a row since launch in the UK. Similarly, there would be little value in the MVNE and MVNO brand being apparent to the customer.
©Copyright 2001-2005 Christian Borrman, All Rights Reserved. Reproduction Prohibited

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, 4 April 2012

Marketing and MVNOs

MVNO marketing budgets, strategies & process

"We don't have a marketing budget" - yes you do, it's called lack of gross margin!

Often MVNOs have said to me "we don't have a marketing budget". My reply is almost inevitably always the same: "yes, you do, its that 10% - 20% of gross margin you are missing by selling on price due to a lack of a marketing plan, and the budget required to fund it!"

Marketing MVNOs in their infancy

MVNOs are still largely in their infancy as a result; they are still at the "white label" end of wholesale, where they are largely marketing on reselling a product and promoting simplicity or price. the opposite end is when you have a huge marketing budget, a great brand, and you can add hundreds or thousands of percent margin. I am not suggesting MVNOs will get their, yet, but there is still a long way to go.

There are emerging, promising behaviours. MVNOs with just a Facebook page, that I have referred to elsewhere on these blogs, however the fact that a client of mine, who has been in the MVNO business for many years and is very successful,  recently asked for help on their marketing strategy 3 days before launch shows the position we are in at the thick end of MVNOs

So why do we not have MVNO marketing strategies in MVNOs?

There are three main reasons MVNOs are not marketing well yet
  1. to market a product successfully, you need to understand the end to end product, where it comes from, how much it costs, what element cost a lot, which ones cost a little (freebies do not pay for themselves) and of those things that cost a lot and a little, which add value and which don't and when. Virgin mobile were very good here, putting marketing people on the board, where they could see management accounts, understand the issues and as such end up with 2 million customers when they expected to have 200,000! As MVNOs are still in their infancy, most of my work in MVNOs is helping clients bridge that gap across the board, let alone finding a single marketing person who will understand this.
  2. The market is still in its infancy and dynamic: I have trouble keeping abreast of the end to end dynamics of MVNOs and I work full time, have done since the beginning and allocate a huge amount of my time and effort to R&D and helping new entrants pro bono, as well as having a blog where every man and his dog who wants to be an MVNO invariably contacts me at one point or another. If you are not prepared to get your hands dirty or get off the clock every so often you stand no chance!

So what are the classic three MVNO marketing mistakes:

  1. The MVNO is a brand and already has a marketing department. All well and good, but selling mobile wholesale is a specialist product and does not relate well to other services, except maybe wholesale food, where supermarkets have been moderately successful. however, to be a successful food marketeer, which supermarket marketeers generally are, as per point one above, you need to have your head in commodities you are selling, and wholesale minutes, mbs and messages will only be a distraction / part time job at best: it needs dedicated resource
  2. The MVNO hires and ex MNO marketeer: this is ironically often the worst mistake, as they are either junior and never had the foresight to understand the end to end process of the MNO, and therefore will struggle to grasp the process in the MVNO, or they are senior enough to have been exposed to the whole marketing budget and reporting process and will inevitably be bored of the lack of MVNO budget sooner or later. That is assuming they can make the jump from MNO (essentially an manufacturer of mobile, high cost production, high margin, depreciating asset) to an MVNO which is at the other end of the industry (low cost production, low margin, no depreciating assets) - the whole paradigm is just very different. hence, you will not see supermarkets poaching marketing staff from their suppliers!
  3. The MVNO has no marketing budget, understanding of market or desire to. I have seen this at the highest levels, where a CEO, 2 years in will ask the marketing person: what's the difference between above and below the line again? My reply, which you will be glad to know I invariably keep to myself, is "your results and your bonus". This lack of understanding usually results in one of two things: too much budget, and it is squandered on above the line, or two little budget and nothing can be done.

How to Market MVNOs more effectively...

My advice for MVNOs, based on having helped many MVNOs to market over the last 10 years, and thankfully they are all still in business, is to start small, measure success and grow the budget in line with results. The reason for this is that I have seen people in mobile spend money to acquire 100,000 25 year olds and achieved 500,000 43 year olds... on evaluation, the result was no where near as "cool" but the fact is that 43 years-olds have more money to spend on mobile than 25 year-olds and are more loyal: keep spending!

Leverage social, leverage on-line! 6 to 7 out of 10 sales in fully fledged and marketed MNO sales are online, this is up from less than 1% in just 2007. Companies such as Telmore in Denmark have grown to 800,000 subscribers in a country with a total population of just 4 people (or so!) mostly online, however:
  1. to do this you need to be "web 2.0 aware" a terrible phrase, but true. Social is cheap as you basically outsource your marketing to the public. the stronger your brand and the better your product, the better you will fair, but as you grow you need to be able to manage this.
  2. To sell MVNO online, you need to be online, that is, you need data and Value Added Services (VAS), another bug bear of MVNOs and a key subject of upcoming MVNO conferences, and one I cover here.

MVNO sales and marketing process:

  1. get an initial budget: to do this you need to be honest about your Subscriber Acquisition Cost (SAC) and attribute an appropriate proportion of that to marketing, I have used different amounts to different success over the years based on the growth plans, size of MVNO, stage of its development, brand, product and market position
  2. hire someone young, enthusiastic, with the capacity and desire for very, very steep learning curves, but for god's sake keep them on track with:
  3. Report on results, this can be growth figures, but also tenure, spend, what customers it attracted. being online and social can help here as the metrics are freely available and easy to process, fixed channels take longer and require full time data crunchers to analyse. Make sure you are keeping churn in check!
  4. re-invest accordingly. A key here is how the MVNO has structured their agreement with suppliers, as if done wrongly, certain types of growth need to be monitored and marketed very carefully as they can cause cash flow issues! I have been asked to assist with MVNOs that have become a victim of their own success, unfortunately it has often been too late...
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Thursday, 12 January 2012

MVNO in a Box

MVNO in a box

Readmade MVNO, by ACME

The MVNO in a box has changed, so what has changed? Well, the starting point, not the end point: there are MVNAs now that start at €1,000, ok you still need to market the product, pack the SIMs, distribute them and more, but it's still a low starting point and this is important: you are not necessarily going to carry on and expand with this solution, but the starting point is low enough for more to come through, refine the service and the product, learn a bit more about mobile, etc before then going back to the MVNE or MNO table with a refined plan and some actual numbers. This is important for four key factors:
  1. Fewer MVNOs failing to ever get to market or going bust getting there
  2. Better services: there are people who know services and there are people who know mobile, that canyon is very seldom bridged, zip wired, and sometimes not even crossed!
  3. possibility of funding: the amount of potential MVNOs I and the MNOs speak to that are looking for funding is huge: huge because there are many, and huge because they very, very seldom get funded as you have half of the funders fed crap from people who pretend to know MVNOs saying they cost £5-10 million, and those that do understand just will not take the MVNE/MNO risk or stomach the unkowns through due diligence: a small going concern is differnt
  4. they will stop people competing on price: so many MVNOs start with a value proposition, and a conviction that the MVNO will take 6-12 months less time that it actually does... 6-12 months later they tend to descope services to launch quicker and the first to go are the Value Added Services... and so they compete on price. One thing is clear - a €1,000 MVNA is not going to permit you the lazy luxury (lazy as competing on price is just the most expensive marketing and product development you can do) to sell on price - you are going to have to sell on service. There are also fewer SIMs, so you are not going to waste them: this means making sure you charge for a SIM, only sell it to someone who wants it and sell it at a profit... All failed MVNOs that did not fail because they were silly ideas or other high risks fail by a) cutting VAS, b) giving away SIMs, c) selling on price.

MVNE vs MVNA

The end point is still the same: use your MVNO in a box if it allows you to prove a live concept with the same budget you were previously going to use to explore or prove a concept with (research, reports, etc). Then take a refined trial service and apply the below logic from my post of last year to an MVNE / MNO proposition, which if good, will not come "in a box" but will need some hard work, but it will be hard work you will find the MNO or MVNE very willing to help you with!

Original MVNO in a box article 2011

I have just been through the MVNO Industry Summit Linkedin group and been on a rant! Why? The first was someone asking if anyone if anybody had an MVNO in a box solution. OK: the MVNO has come a long way, the first one took several years, and to be honest, my shortest engagement on an MVNO has been 6 month, and that is when I have joined at least double that time into the process, and I have managed to accelerate the process by at least 4-5 months. MVNOs, along with app stores, are the single most complex products you can launch in mobile, and the technical parts working are just the start. Forget "in a box" and think, what is my box that I will tick in the market. At present, if you look at the mobile consumer as a whole, probably only 5% to 10% of mobile consumers could actually buy a product "in a box" The most part buy a mix of device matched with an almost bespoke tariff, term, contract and other extras, bolt-ons and more, let's not even begin with accessories, ring-tones and the like. Therefore, if you want an "MVNO in a box" think more about if your product that is simple and relevant enough that i would enable a significant market of consumers to buy your product "out of the box". you will then be of enough interest to the market and an MNO that your "mvno solution in a box" worries will practically go away!

originally posted by Christian Borrman 18:50pm 04/03/11