In a fiercely competitive and rapidly evolving mobile landscape, the mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) is playing an increasingly important role, and I recently had an exciting opportunity for an up-close look at this space. The 14th annual MVNOs World Congress in Nice, France, brought together over 500 attendees for a fascinating glimpse of the future for MVNOs, and I would like to share a few insights from the conference here.
MVNO growth continues to show rapid growth. The number of MVNOs rose to almost 1,000 by the end of 2014, according to the GSMA, largely due to policy changes designed to increase competition along with a growing interest in the MVNO market from players like ISPs and device manufacturers.
This growth was on full display at the MVNOs World Congress. The amount and diversity of new MVNOs entering the market are leading to unparalleled choices for consumers to find the perfect mobile plan. Some MVNOs are coming to market led by teams with deep telecommunication experience, while others are coming from the ideas of innovative leaders who may not have much experience in the industry.
Yet while consumers are gaining significant choices for their mobile service, the market is becoming daunting for both new and established MVNOs. Among the challenges that new MVNOs are confronting: how do I differentiate from the competition, should I be a “full” or “light” MVNO, and, how do I best maintain visibility and nurture relationships with my subscribers? At the same time, established MVNOs are facing other questions: how do I transition from a 3G to a 4G market, and, how do I integrate Wi-Fi and keep a seamless handoff between networks. These are all valid concerns in a crowded market with little margin for error, and they were common threads of discussion throughout the conference.
The answer to many of these questions lies in cloud-based or hosted solutions, as I explained in a presentation I delivered at the conference, “4G MVNO: Success and Agility through Hosted Solutions.” Simply put, cloud services enable any MVNOs, whether new or established, full or light, to find ways to differentiate themselves. The hosted environment allows MVNOs to adopt a flexible, pay-as-you-grow model, with an a la carte menu that allows the MVNO to select only the services needed to enable its business vision or to differentiate itself.
In particular, because most MVNOs don’t operate as a full MVNO, with their own end-to-end network, IPX has emerged as a critical backbone to gain access to the advanced services of a full network in order to deliver these services to subscribers. Using the single-connection capability of IPX, MVNOs can partner with MVNEs to get access to a number of scalable hosted services. These cloud-based solutions allow MVNOs to take advantage of quick time to market with new services, lower costs through a “pay as you grow” model, and full connection to advanced services like real-time intelligence capabilities.
These real-time intelligence capabilities are particularly crucial. Fine-tuning the subscriber experience through the use of real-time data is not only important for providing high-quality service, but also for engaging with subscribers to encourage more usage. The latest real-time intelligence technologies ensure that MVNOs can consistently deliver superior service by monitoring a number of service elements, such as traffic levels, data download speeds and dropped calls. Real-time intelligence technologies also can provide insight to help MVNOs tailor their engagement strategy in response to subscriber reactions to service changes, like new offerings, price plan updates or marketing promotions.
It was exciting to have an opportunity to discuss these solutions with the gathering at MVNOs World Congress and witness so many of the industry’s best and brightest working to make MVNOs better. If the discussions we had are any indication, the MVNO model is becoming stronger and stronger, I think that the best days of MVNOs are ahead of us.