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The new MVNOs on the block

March 1, 2019

Mick Higgins   

Vice President of Mobility Product

The Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) model is evolving, with all kinds of businesses realising the value in augmenting their offering through mobile services.

Traditionally, fuelled by surging consumer demand for mobile services, businesses like Aerovoyc, GiffGaff, Lycra Mobile and Red Pocket contracted network access from mobile network operators to create their own customer-facing offerings. These MVNOs simply re-sell airtime or add additional customer features and functions onto of the existing network.

The digital transformation reshaping businesses worldwide today is making its mark through new enterprise mobility models too. The rapid adoption of cloud-enabled services, APIs and automation, as well as a rise in ‘As-a-Service’ platforms for communications and mobile networks, means that the nature of MVNOs is changing.

For example, this new generation of MVNOs is taking an open technology approach by adopting APIs for system integration, which allows them to configure and merge new services, and create service mash-ups – rather than offer traditional linear mobile services like voice or data.

But, these new MVNO types don’t want to be restricted by the limitations of complex BSS/OSS. They require simple set-up and customer interaction processes. They need the ability to launch services quickly, minimise risk and improve customer satisfaction through transparency and simplicity.

Meet the new players

Today almost any company can become an MVNO and offer value-added mobile services for its customers. This has led to the diversification of the MVNO model, now consisting of several sub-segments that include brand extensions, IoT, roaming, and B2B2C. In my view, the three most exciting MVNOs shaking up this market currently are the digital natives, enterprise MVNOs and device manufacturers.

1. The digital natives

These next-generation service providers and Internet-born companies are looking to expand their service profile to offer a broader range of customer engagement options. It’s about ‘stickiness’ – building a stronger, deeper relationship with the customer by extending the core offering to mobile too. Google Fi in the US is a great example of this. The tech giant uses both the T-Mobile and Sprint mobile networks to offer its customers an easy switch alternative to other mobile services.

2. Enterprise MVNOs

More and more enterprises are actively seeking to gain better visibility and control over their mobile communications. One of the drivers for this is the desire to reduce costs while making the most of different unified communications platforms, IoT services and offering employees access to data and applications anywhere, anytime.

Today, MVNOs are hosted almost exclusively in secure cloud environments – which naturally makes the service more scalable and faster to deploy, and less CAPEX-intensive to manage. This is also making the MVNO model more viable for medium to large enterprises. For example, under an enterprise MVNO, employees could bring their own phone to work and get a branded SIM and associated number, while retaining their personal number. Calls and messages would then be delivered to both, just as they are with services such as Google Voice. Any data used on corporate apps could be charged to the employer, with private app usage continuing to be charged directly to the employee – whether roaming or at home.

3. Device Manufacturers

Any company whose core business is about making things – anything from lightbulbs to white goods – can now become an MVNO. For example, a company like Philips, that is known for making light bulbs can now offer additional lighting-as-a-service solutions that combine its lighting expertise with ubiquitous connectivity. The end result is a connected service that gives its customers greater control over lighting remotely, and new insights on energy consumption – saving money and energy.

Thanks to innovative services like this, the relationship between the manufacturer and consumer is transformed from a one-off transaction to ongoing engagement, boosting customer loyalty.

The next chapter for MVNOs

The new generation of MVNOs show how it is possible to get the best of both worlds: the traditional mobile network operator characteristics of quality, reliability and scalability; but with faster time to market, lower CAPEX, and a range of value-add services to create more seamless user experiences.

This is an exciting new chapter in the global mobility story. While the market is constantly evolving, one thing is clear – there are now more opportunities than ever for forward-looking businesses to innovate and accelerate their growth through new mobile services.

Read our previous blog about the potential of esim here.