Friday 22 November 2013

Mobile Roaming Regulation 2014 Customer Experience

When speaking to the organisers I thought it would be a good idea to present at the Mobile Roaming Conference 2013 on the impact of the EC Roaming regulations 2014 from, you know, the customers' perspective. It was a good idea and the presentation was received very well... however writing it was a lot more painful than the usual presentation!

It was only right to add the cover after I had made it look so nice...
So the premise of the presentation was to look at the user experience (UX) of customers while roaming in the European Union and how this may change with the wider EC roaming regulations of 2014, which will of course affect MVNOs. Virtuser is pretty well placed to speak about this, as we were there for the first round of regulations, requiring last minute WAP pages and SMS gateway solutions, and we have helped numerous MVNOs comply with regulation with advice of charge, etc.
Apple was not the first App Store, by far, nor the first to do apps, but the won with great UX
So what is the customer experience at present of not just the roaming regulations, but also just roaming... well its not a good one and its very, how shall we say, pre-iPhone, in fact pre WAP: when did you ever have a great text based customer experience?
The present Roaming Regulation experience is pretty dire and text only mostly
Most roaming experiences start with an overly edited text message, with no number to call customer service for free as we are supposed (come on, we know standard customer care calls abroad are not free, right?), the SMS service is most likely completely disconnected from any core systems or customer care tool and is the main reason why there are so many dormant roamers: when did a text based UX last convince you to buy something?
The roaming experience gets worse, what happens when you go over your limit? 
Then what happens when you go over the €50 limit? the €5 per day all inclusive plans are brilliant, but after 10 days what do I do... well you opt out and one operator was good to their word (above) another shall remain nameless and rubbed their hands together and delivered me a huge dose of bill shock. So I had 10 days of roaming regulation induced sanity, the rest of the time I was back in the dark ages.
And the prize for the best Roaming Regulations advice of charge message is.... 
Vodafone UK has, as far as I am concerned, the best roaming track record post the roaming regulations, however what went on in the office the day they decided this message was the way forward? and this is the reduced version as I culd only fit four screenshots in...
Its not just the regulated messages that are a poor customer experience
After upgrading my iPhone on Vodafone 3 or 4 times, once it decided I needed to change my romaining plan of the last 4 or 5 years... you know, just to shake things up a little: So I arrive and get a message saying I will be charged about 120 times my usual national rate for data as I was no longer using its roaming tariff - great, I am in a taxi, trying not to be taken the scenic route and make a meeting and I have to spend 30 minutes on the phone to my Operator (10 of which were on hold). I finally get it sorted and two hours later get a message, but when did the new tariff set in? was my call that I made a note to check on my bill that was free really free (I never got round to it, but suspect I know the answer).

Then there is the wonderful experience, particular to Voda UK, where on an iPhone, a person in your contacts list calls you and their number appears, you have them saved in your phone, as you do with all your numbers, with the +44 international code... yet you go to call them back, and because voda has delivered the call without the international code you get an error code and a text saying you need to put "00" in front of the number... worse is, I have spoken to a few people in Voda about this and they all go "oh, yes, that..." with a look of "who is going to take the next year of their life to fix that and probably not succeed or be thanked for it anyway" ...and I pay a premium for this type of service?
post 2014 will be different as it will introduce competition and "it will do" will no longer be good enough
So why will 2014 be any different when the second wave of EC roaming Legislation comes in? well, for a start, it will introduce competition. Operators do not typically like this, nobody in business really does, but we accept it as we know it is what get's you out of bed in the morning to drive progress. This progress is also important, as it will mean an app driven, internet based experience with all that that brings: real time knowledge, social interaction and real time reviews and ratings: it will be as close to a proper experience as we can get.and will bring roaming from pre app store to smartphone experience in one swoop... finally!
post 2014 with bring a) competition, but moreover b) an smartfone, interactive web and app based CX
It is this competition, as counterintuitive as it may seem, that will drive the 70% of dormant users to adopt roaming. Just as with national data and widespread mobile usage of all services (voice text and data) it was not just lower rates that drove wide spread adoption: it was competition: people did not message universally until whatsapp and imessage. Yes the operators lost a base a small % of their base who were uber texters, but they gained a complete base of data users who needed text as a fall back and the total volume of texts increased. The same with data, many people needed the comfort of their home wifi and hotspots to make the jump to a data tariff.
So who will win? the counterintuitive answer is everybody, as this will drive out the 70% dormant roamers
TBH many roamers will stay with the even lower price drop of their native operator, but if they go over their €50 limit, or their boss/client suddenly decided they need to rewrite a presentation with videos in it (been there) they have mobile options that do not mean finding a cafe with internet.
But there is still a lot to think about, like data configs when you break out and when you go back, fortunately Virtuser has a Mobile Roaming regulation OTA Data setting solution for this
I spoke to a lot of people about this, in my own mini focus group and took some great phrases you see in the word cloud from industry insiders, regulators and users: like:

  • It will take a while for people to gain faith in roaming regulations, like a whole yearly cycle of travelling. 
  • Value is important. you do not want to pay €5 or even €2 every day, but you will happily pay €10 just for data the day your boss needed that presentation yesterday
  • legacy billing is no longer an excuse, in fact its the excuse we all got bored of and drove this regulation in the first place!
  • Technology challenges need to be overcome, like even UX, how do you go from one app (your native host operator) to the LBO app and configs and back again. It's bound to break at first! 
  • Competition is key, its no longer enough to ignore this, or your revenues will reflect this
  • Roaming is still a huge revenue by EBITDA % but will need a small investment in UX to grow
But these can be overcome, and whether you an an MNO or MVNO I have helped both through this before... so get in touch if you want to discuss apps and OTA settings and SMS gateways!
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Tuesday 27 August 2013

MVNO product development - post pay vs. prepay part 1: launch

MVNO Product Development - Prepaid MVNO vs Postpaid MVNO

When launching an MVNO, simple and low risk is key "keep it green" :)
One thing that has been a bug bear of every MVNO process has been keeping things simple, which invariably means prepay only for launch. Yes, there is a reason why pretty much all the successful MVNOs that are still here launch pre-pay only; when you are new to a market (most MVNOs are new to mobile) it pays to keep your front and back end processes as simple as possible.

Which leads to the next bug bear which is trying to base your launch product on other players follow-up and mass-market products. Just because your competitors have moved to post-pay does not mean you need to launch post-pay and or even compete with their prices.... (this will be another post...)

Keeping things simple in MVNO is easy, right? 

So back to keeping things simple: Everybody buys into it, yes, but not everybody gets it, and even those that do are easily distracted: It's a bit like being a good citizen; some will never get it, and you should keep them as far away from anything important as possible; others need reminding often, and others only the threat of prison makes them adhere to the rule. The analogy is important here, as most people the fear of failure, like the fear of prison,  is the only way to keep them on the straight and narrow!

Evidence of this is when you get comments from people who you thought got it like: "that cannot have taken long, look how simple it is" or "why are we launching with just pre-pay again?" Simple takes time; anybody can take a collage of other products, jam them together and come up with a half decent proposition in a day, the problem is it will cost you a lot to market, a lot to service and will cost even more in lost sales and churn, and most likely it will fall into the 50% of new businesses that fail and cost the highest business cost of all: failure!
Simple takes time, a lot of thought and often counter-intuitive - but achieves success
So back to why keeping it simple is important? I will start with one of the best comments of the last MVNO conference in Rome by Adam Holt of Tuenti at the last MVNO conference, who said that if they did it over again they would not have done post-paid, as it lengthened the product cycle. I will deal with this in another post, let's just stick here to the precursor of this which is launch:

Basically, before  launch you will need to build a product set that fits with your business model, your strategy and your marketing plan and investment. The variables here are huge alone, but simple will in short be easier to manage, cheaper to market and quicker to implememt. I have seen months' delay from just one billing product complication in run up to launch causing a no-go.

Launch and post launch prepaid mvno benefits

The critical time however comes at launch and post-launch. Here you will be dealing with configuring of a new billing system, running reports hourly at first and trying to work out not just problems, there will be supposed problems that are not actualy problems but have you in a tizzy anyway and real problems as well: It's all so much easier when the product is simple. There will be over performing and underperforming tariffs that need revising up and down, there will be customers who fall short of the next bundle up who will need targetting, and guess what- its all very easy, and very profitable, if the product is simple.    I have seen a first consignment of overcomplicated bundles never make it to acual customers: The offer was well concieved and attractive, unfortunately so much so the SIMs sold very well - to fraudulent SIM box use that was not even in the country of origin within days: the losses were not just the fraud on the network, but the marketing that excited real customers who could not get a product...

Do I need to be a post pay mvno at all?

Then there is the recent developments: I have been using the above slide for over 10 years now, but since then we have seen products like the Oyster Card on the London underground, targeting some of the most affluent people on the planet with pre-pay only, and Starbucks as well with their closed user group that is pre-pay only, with average revenues way above average post-pay mobile bills. The important point is that they do not market the product as pre-pay, and do not allude to the fact, nor hold back on their marketing based on assumptions of post-pay being on the horizon.
Why do mvnos go post-paid at all then?
Most MVNOs may eventually benefit from postpay, the key word being eventually. The 80 / 20 rule, is key here - if you want to get all your customers, some my want a contract, and part of being simple is not making the pain of adoption any more difficult than it has to be, however there are other considerations at this point such as can you afford, or do you want to afford, the higher subscriber acquisition cost? Remember MVNOs live and die by acquiring customers cheaper and keeping them longer, post-pay may lend itself to the latter, but is very hard on the former, as well as being the MNOs bread and butter.

So, even if you cannot keep it simple... At least start it simple, and your chances of sucesses, as well as those of avoiding failure will be much higher, mostly because your marketing budget will have gone further and attracted better customers (you see where I am going here) let alone the fact that your boss / shareholders will not have been breathing down your neck while you are pulling 15 hour days on the red boxes on the slide above!

Thursday 11 July 2013

MVNO Conference 2013 Rome LTE MVNO opportunity

I though I would share my slide and thoughts on LTE and the MVNO, having written many of the requirements, negotiated a major full MVNO with LTE and now building the full LTE MVNO, here in the UK for yet another FTSE 100 company entering mobile.
The Opportiunities for LTE in MVNO and LTE wholesale are huge
I feel in a strong position to talk about the opportunity because I have negotiated a lot of MVNO agreements over the last 10 years across mostly Europe, which has seen the advent of 2G MVNO and 3G MVNO and its contractual, organisational and other issues. Also because at Virtuser we run a lot of value added services for MVNOs, like top-up over SMS and OTA data settings for MVNOs so we see what handsets are being used, what data propositions are being used and other first hand experience of not just walking the talk, but walking the walk, to use the consulting analogy (consultants are often accused of only being able to talk the talk, or at most talk the walk :))
In assessing the LTE MVNO opportunity, we need to look at the facts, not 3G+
Its important that we look at the facts when assessing the LTE opportunity and not make the 3G mistakes, not only on the commercial proposition side, but also from a network and business side. That is: its clear that 4G handsets are slower in uptake than 3G, and that so far this service, as such, commands a premium over 3G. We also know that data currently represents high double digits percentages of network running costs (87% in the case of a major MNO in the UK) but no where near these levels of revenues. We also know that while mobile data costs in the region of 5X the cost to provision, it does not command a yield price 5X that of fixed broadband data due to strong competition on the MNO retail market... Wholesale therefore is a significant opportunity for MNOs and MVNOs to charge the higher yields and returns to MNOs and MVNOs alike in this space. This will require the MNOs, and their notorious contracts to adapt and enable all new MVNOs with "4G ready" status.
Please can we not see MVNOs still launching with 3G SIM cards 7 years from now like with 3G
 I was still negotiating 2G SIM card deals for MVNOs in 2007, 7 years after 3G! All new MVNOs should be 4G ready MVNO or LTE ready MVNOs, however you wish to call this. This means 4G MVNO SIMs, but also 4G LTE MVNO on the MNO roadmap, in the commercial contracts and support services.
4G has had a lot of marketing spend and will be big, but a 4G MVNO campaign does not need  huge spend
A lot of marketing money has been spent on 4G and it will be big, but that does not mean 4G MVNO marketing needs to be big. Sure, EE has spent tens of millions, if not hundreds, on Kevin Bacon on prime TV ATL campaign... but they also launched #OM4G around the social networks and hit exactly the same audience for the cost of a couple of your marketing execs and some creative freedom free of corporate risk constraints (unlikely in an MNO :)) Data MVNOs like Bliep* launched and grew almost entirely on Twitter. Cheap marketing and a niche = low SAC, the mainstay of wholesale. add the fact that MVNOs are generally attracting a higher yield for their data and we have an ideal scenario for 4G to pull us out of the 3G hell we have, where heavy competition and unlimited packages mean 5% of the users are using 95% of the data and nobody can get a fast connection when they need it, reliably at least.
Clever Twitter and social marketing by MVNOs that is too risky for MNOs can hit at core 4G data market with low SAC
So the dawn of clever MVNO marketing is already here, and shifting the focus of MVNO marketing spend from being like MNO spend (mainly ATL with some dabbling elsewhere) to very experimental, experiential and social marketing... exactly what internet savvy 4G target market consumes. So no need for an overcomplicated six degrees of separation to attract a market and generation who are more 4G aspirational than 4G ready.
So you got past 4G and LTE contractual, MNO roadmap and other issues: is your MVNO platforms operationally ready?
Many MVNOs today have 3G, however nobody uses it as they are obsessed with competing with MNO bundles. The fact is that 50% of UK smartfone users use less than 100mb of data, and the rest use around 200mb. That means that by paying as much as 5p to 10p per megabyte on an MVNO, these users will be better off than getting an unlimited MNO tariff. What is more, the host MNO is better off, as retail yields are around ten times less than this. The MVNO is better off, as these data revenues are what shifts MVNOs form what I call a "£10 minus ARPU MVNO" to a "£10 plus ARPU MVNO".

By enabling the most advanced OTA MVNO data settings on the market we have seen huge growth in data usage in even markets which the MVNO would never assume they could generate usage.
The key issues around negotiating LTE MVNO and getting an MVNO 4G ready

The back-end is still critical, even the slickest MVNO architecture from tier 1 providers does not come with the back-end to enable MVNO friendly OTA and APN data settings, some of them incur up to 50% of customer care calls, which at an average of around £4.50 cost to an MVNO of a customer care call today, can easily wipe out the increased ARPU from data, and even all the profit from a user. Finally, the proposition needs to work. From running the SMS tariff top-ups form MVNOs we have great insight to the propositions MVNO customers actually buy, and they are very different from what most MNO propositions are, and a world away from the tizzy that MVNO management and proposition consultants can whip themselves into.
Every informative case study should end with a shameless plug for our services Virtuser MVNO consultancy :)

Wednesday 12 June 2013

personal or celebrity MVNO Jennifer Lopez mobile mvno marketing

One of my more popular posts of just over a year ago was around the plans for Samuel Eto'o to Launch an MVNO in his native Cameroon, and it was for good reason: there is a lot of mileage in the personal mvno, or as it is now becoming more commonly referenced as celebrity MVNO.

So along comes Jennifer Lopez and announces an Hispanic MVNO or strategic alliance with Verizon to sell phones. What is more interesting about the JLO mobile deal however are two things: firstly that there have already been some Hispanic MVNO plays in the US market with Movida, Tuyo and Dexa among others, and secondly that it is in a market and host operator that has done this kind of thing before... yes, I am saying it will take a little longer to launch (the first) MVNO in Cameroon than an existing model, in an established market with a celebrity twist.
MVNOs need more than just a brand now, they need a brand that plays in many spaces and moves forward
This Celebrity twist may be the key, as so far the Hispanic MVNOs have had initial success, but ultimately have failed, and this is due to a mixture of two things:
  1. The customer outgrowing the brand: most Ethnic MVNOs sell on the USP of having a native language IVR, something which a customer can quickly outgrow
  2. Most MVNOs are very good at getting the first customers on board, the early adopter, however those that fail typically do so due to not evolving the product marketing to the second wave of "me-too" and mass market
So how can someone like JLO help? well it depends on how much she is involved, but on a simplistic level the customer is less likely to outgrow the product when they ground themselves in their environment.

Secondly, if someone like Jennifer Lopez is involved in the product cycle, even if at a very high level like the Intel innovation can really help to keep the customer engaged and the product evolved for longer.

You only have to Google "Jennifer Lopez Enterprises" to uncover companies such as BioWE, Nuyorican productions (nice!) and more, all this can add a much needed injection of ongoing product development and innovation to a mobile model, both the MNO and MVNOs that is in need of a different approach to product development and innovation that the new wave of celebrity or personal MVNO could add.

The celebrity in technology is not new, Clive Sinclair was the centre of the ZX spectrum,
The entrepreneur behind the spectrum was key, tho not enough for his next venture, the C5
Richard Branson was as bigger part of the value of Virgin Mobile as the trade mark itself, even beyond its native brand strong-hold, the UK
Launch publicity like this costs millions... or you can hand a celebrity / personality behind the brand from a rope!
Steve Jobs was the centre of Apple's ability to enter the mobile space that everybody, and it is hard to believe, everybody thought they would fail at. Indeed the then Nokia CEO famously expressed; "if I launched a 2G phone with those specs..." (the first iPhones were technically behind, but the OS and eco system more advanced, driven by vision, not typical technology product development.
Steve Jobs, and his vision of UX and eco system over hardware, were key to the success of  the iPhone
and many of the Victorian industrial revolutionists were a key part of the evolution of the brand and products and innovations. the Rocket, is not known as the rocket, but Stephenson's Rocket
Rocket? ah... you mean Stephenson's rocket!
The ideal is to return to business to attract the right people, which will happen, but in today's safe, grey and boring corporate world were management salaries are lagging, the talent is elsewhere and in entrepreneurial roles, and recruiting celebrities and personalities to inject a bit of life into your technology product is no bad thing.

Thursday 31 January 2013

Nokia MVNO

Nokia MVNO

The Nokia MVNO rumour first surfaced in 2008... remember this was way before Microsoft, iPhone had only just launched a phone with a proper radio in it (iPhone 3G) and Android was on version Cupcake (1.5) and Donut (1.6) with the main device being one from HTC that had spoilers on it!

Since then a lot has changed :) however Microsoft devices appear to have their market with 4G? The article which caught my eye was this one, saying Verizon may get a high end Lumia (yes, another rumour .. I am sensing a trend too :)). But bear with me;
Could the service retail and even MVNO model be the WP8 market sweetspot? commented here in MVNOs from a customer perspective there is a  definite shift to where mass market that want an unlimited bundle and untamed device go to the main network operator. MVNOs compete more effectively on their own terms, creating niches... which, forgive me if I am wrong, but appears to be where maybe WP8 can be very strong, especially an LTE 4G MVNO?

Similarly, there are a lot of Android handsets out there that are ideally suited to the MVNO, for example the keyboarded smartphones and moreover the Samsung Duos series, as much of the MVNO growth in recent years has been via SIM duplication, not SIM substitution, at least in the US and Western Europe with high % MVNO market share... and who else does mass market dual SIM devices... ah yes which brings me full circle to dual SIM Nokias... :)

Original Nokia MVNO Article (2008)

Nokia Hardware MVNO

Reportedly Nokia is planning a Hardware MVNO in Japan, which would push the OVI portal services within this market. As correctly pointed out in this article, by Rethink wireless that Nokia has found it difficult to enter the Japanese market due to the operators' insistence on using i-mode type services, these services will not necessarily be a barrier to the success of a hardware andon device portal MVNO.
In essence the i-mode model is an early learner mobile portal, not dissimilar to the AOL online model, where people are provided a safe environment, which also becomes a familiar environment, due to mass adoption, however it is one people eventually grow out of. The evidence and historical evidence of this can be found in the two following lessons:

Firstly, if we look at the rise and fall of AOL as a portal to the fixed line, it rose and fell with dial-up. AOL provided a cost efficient an effective way to get on-line in the pre-broadband stage, when what is effectively a walled garden worked well. As the beginnings of what we now call web 2.0 came along as well as broadband, we had to climb out of our analogue shell and into the digital world, helped along by the magic of google. part of the pain of adoption that had to be overcome was moving over to the monthly line rental and learning what ADSL means and what an upstream and a downstream where...The mobile world has now catapulted itself into this mass market phase, from 2006 when we had 176 x 208 screens with tens of thousands of colours, operators would share with me how they struggled to get over 7 days per month WAP or mobile internet usage out of even ABC1 clients. In this space, i-mode wins, and the uptake of i-mode over WAP in Europe shows that, as does the uptake of AOL fuelled internet over that of the typically dial-up model in non AOL territories. In 2009, we have GPS enabled QVGA+ 3"+ screens with millions of colours and HSDPA and wi-fi, and the world is a very different place. OVI lets you upload your photos to flicker and VOX, video call, IM chat and everything you once dreamt of doing on a laptop but practicality never allowed, can now be done, and that is something that will be driven by an "open" Nokia approach, rather than the unspeakably annoying operator approach, whereby by Orange branded Nokia interrupts my second photo while I have to cancel it asking me if I wish to upload the first to my Orange album, even though I have refused every attempt it has tried for me to set-up and Orange album... (after having carried out what seems like decades of user testing for Nokia, I can only imagine Nokia's horror when operators ask for features like this) and why would i want to share my items with just other orange users, presumably in the UK, when my network has outgrown this model and Vox and Flickr let me share with the world, even after I have left Orange.

Secondly, device connectivity has moved beyond the control of the mobile operator, and with it the user has outgrown the heavily modified handset. People now want an iPhone, or an N96 or a C905, and they do not want it to have been messed around with too much, like the "upload this photo to Orange" intrusion, I also want to update my software when Nokia have made it available, not when the operator has had time to play with it and tweak it: While operators like Vodafone in the UK are very good at releasing updates for their variants, my N82 on orange is still stuck on its original build 10.x where the internet radio still does not work and a handful of other bugs are present, all of them removed on the build 12.x that everyone else is on. Then there is the connectivity, like with the online scenario: When we only had dial-up, we did not mind AOL commandeering our modem and stopping any other pesky diallers eating our money. however, in these days of multiconnectivity, we do not want AOL messing with our vodafone 3G connection or wi-fi hotspot connection. In the same way, we are tired of having an operator driven phone full of bookmarks that respond with "this service is only available via GPRS..." every time we are on wi-fi.
In short, the Japanese mobile internet is the most mature mobile internet market there is, and I would suggest they are ripe for a hardware MVNO, as the predicted 1 million iPhones by the end of 2008 suggests. It seems that here in Europe the market is headed the same way too. Twice now, the issue of debranding Nokia phones has come up in conversations. In both of them I mentally recorded what USP would trigger people's desire to change: 1) the phone as Nokia intended it? No; 2) having all the VoIP and other software your operator does not like? No 3) potentially having a more stable phone? No; 4) being able to access a full range of software from Nokia Beta labs and other software from the "download" section of the phone? done, yes please... what do I have to do to debrand my phone...

posted by Christian Borrman 19:26pm 24/11/08

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:


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

Thursday 24 January 2013

MVNO 2013 Rome Conference

The MVNO 2013 Rome

The MVNO conference is moving to Rome from Barcelona!

MVNO Awards

There is an exciting new MVNO Awards to recognise innovation in MVNO, I will be on the judging panel and really looking forward to this exiting new development


There will be some interesting discussions on LTE in the MVNO MVNE space during a breakfast briefing and a panel, etc I will be chairing, so look forward to that as well! 

Meet MVNO Blog

I shall be there for the whole event, use the MVNO contactify link top right or one of the social network links to get in touch...

...and much more, see below:

MVNOs World Congress 2013
Date: 22-24 April 2013

Event description: The event is in its twelfth year and is the flagship event in the seven-event global #MVNOIS series.  Moving to new venue city Rome in 2013, the event will focus on the global opportunity for MVNOs with dedicated streams on CEM, M2M, LTE, WiFi, Quadplay, Retail, Brands and Roaming.

Event Highlights:
·         NEW! MVNO Start-up Summit – introducing the CEO’s of the newest MVNOs to the stage to answer audience questions on wholesale SLA’s funding, marketing, launch and gaining those vital subscribers!
·         NEW! MVNO Awards - celebrating the latest innovations and success in the MVNO industry
·         Dedicated Focus Day on Brand, Retail and Roaming – featuring Poste Mobile Italy, The Post Office UK, Tchibo, Trace and Virgin Mobile, Dobrytel and Roam Mobile.
·         Dedicated Stream on CEM and Partnerships – featuring Solavei, *bliep and Ting
·         NEW! Breakfast Briefing: 4G Wholesale by Alex Besen - In-Depth Look at 4G LTE Wholesale Business Models & Partnerships
·         NEW! The Congress moves to Italy this year.  Make the most of your opportunity to network and socialise in the beautiful city of Rome.
·         Global Focus – Global MVNO update covers Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Latin America, Central and Eastern Europe for the most comprehensive insight into international MVNO activity
·         NEW! Focus on Central and Eastern Europe – reviewing and analysing the latest MVNO launches in CEE
·         Extended Exhibition, on-site demos and networking opportunities. See the latest innovations and meet leading MVNEs, MVNAs and technology specialists.

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...

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

Dell hardware MVNO

The evolution of the hardware MVNO model

The hardware model was a long time coming, the Dell MVNO is now Global, and Lenovo has joined the fray, who will be next? Will update soon, subscribe/follow to hear when!

Original Dell Hardware MVNO 2008:

Dell Hardware MVNO

Back in 2004 when I was finishing my 2005 Next generation MVNO report, I had a "Dell MVNO" hardware MVNO that Pyramid in their eternal wisdom decided was not a viable model and edited out. This model has formed the basis of the Apple MVNO/network agreements and the reported Nokia MVNO. We have seen services such as the carphone warehouse and Vodafone branded laptops, but when are we going to see the long overdue Dell MVNO, and will it be dell or another manufacturer like Acer or ASUS, or even HTC?
here part of the fourth go to market model that was in my original Next generation MVNO report, from 2004:

Dell, Sony? data MVNO

This model differs from the HP and IBM MVNO, in that the model involves IT companies that do not own a business intelligence/consulting arm, and therefore the dynamics are different, although the target market is very similar. Dell has lead the way in enterprise IT, and especially laptops for two reasons: one is the three year onsite warranty, and the second is the latest technology at a reasonable price. All Dells’ business laptops can be ordered with all three modes of WiFi and internal Bluetooth, with the latest technology at an unbeatable price. We have also seen Dell diverging into new areas new markets, such a printers, television and recently PDAs. With the advent of wireless adding questions marks to company future remote access requirements, and a dilemma for the consumer and small business market, the ability to offer not just smartphones as an extension to the PDA and laptop market, but also the data side for the PDA and laptops, is a very attractive proposition for the entire customer Base.
The implementation model should stay at the wholesale side (unlike the HP model) leveraging the Dell name to obtain wholesale agreements for both wifi and GPRS, as well as voice scenarios which can include VoIP with public network termination throughout the world from its dell computers and PDAs.
The MNO can benefit from a huge channel to market that is the dell sales channel and existing customer base, plus increased data traffic.
Implementation Model:
Hybrid to ESP
Business model:
horizontal; Dell data MVNO
MVNO Advantage:
Synergies in sales
MNO Advantage:
High data revenue, low SAC
Customer advantage, USP
One stop shop

originally posted by Christian Borrman 19:26pm 24/11/08

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