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

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

MVNO in a box and cloud MVNO / MVNE - What do they mean

Cloud means many things to many people

Cloud means many things to many people, but as far as virtual mobile is concerned, it really means virtualisation, stuff that was designed to be on multiple machines, put in a single environment for operational and service effectiveness. The reason or a single virtual environment. The reason for this is that you cannot put all of the elements needed for a full MVNE in the cloud yet (like install it on AWS) so you have to create your own, which is not as easy as it sounds: many people just do not have the license or rights to sell on a complete system to a 3rd party. In short, most MVNEs are like an internet cafe, with, hopefully, licences to let their customer use computers with the software they bought on the, but they do not have a right to resell all of that software for a separate resale or resale of a resale.
Cloud and in-a-box is only a real benefit if all services are integrated on a single Single Virtual Environment 

When is cloud really a benefit as opposed to just marketing gumpf?

Just like before setting up Conecto, I worked on one of the biggest companies and best know brands in the world global MVNE strategy, not only did we have this issue, but furthermore; Not one MVNE passed our operational or financial due diligence, so we had to go with suppliers who let us deploy as we wished and build our own. My previous client, before Conecto was built, had to go with the least bad MVNE at the time, which was far from ideal.
So now we have the Cloud issue dealt with, lets get to what “in a box” means!
That means everything on a single virtual environment, not just OSS, BSS; reporting, OTA... the lot!

What does in-a-box really mean?

Conecto has spent 3 years, taking so called off the shelf "in a box”, some of them already cloud or part cloud, services, making them fully cloud, NFV, SDN capable... however we found the world of MVNE is not so in a box and we needed to put more in the box than we bargained for... like a whole new SBC, MSC, SMSC and GGSN, as well as other services like OTA needed completely re-integrating to make it work.

When is in-a-box really a benefit as opposed to marketing gumpf?

What most people mean when they say “in a box” is that they in fact have a collection of boxes prepackaged and selected for you in another box, all of which, again, cause huge operational and other issues.

In short, there is no point having a bunch of connected “clouds”, single virtual environments” or “boxes in a box”, as APIs, connectivity, and even security patching and regression, along with and other changes and even basic debugging mean that achieving over 99% uptime is impossible. 
In short, true cloud benefits are achieved by taking ALL the elements of a fully running, INTEGRATED service and putting them on one virtual machine and networking service. Only then can you:
  • Resource flexibility; instead of having to physically take a machine down, etc, you can allocate more resource remotely, 
  • Apply levels of security and operational processes above and beyond the donor services
  • Multiply connectivity for example to 8 or 16 SMSCs vs only 2
  • Assure that data stays within a single network environment when being reported, stored and processed.
  • Lastly but not least(ly); achieve 99.9xxx uptime when donors only promise 97% in some cases.

How far can the box stretch?

So next time someone tries to sell you “in a box” and / or a cloud MVNE, make sure you scratch below the surface and see what it really means, as in the last 4 years of RFPs and migrations of customers from pretty much every major MVNE player, we can only conclude that we are the only MVNE that has this, or at least has customers using and taking advantage of the operational flexibility and other benefits that true cloud and in a box offers.
There is no point having a selection of boxes in a box, as it does not give the operational efficiency to do all this!

Promotional Advert for our sponsor and only truly cloud in-a-box mvne I am aware of in the sense of offering true benefits to MVNOs and their customers as outlined above: true operational efficiency and flexibility.

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?

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 :)

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

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.


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