Five Essential Tips for Launching an MVNO. DIGITALK Mobile White Paper

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2 Five essential tips for launching an MVNO Entering the market as a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) is a bold move whether it is undertaken by an entrepreneur or a large corporate organisation. The purpose of this short paper is to signpost the key stages and thought processes you should consider when developing your proposition, sourcing your host network and IT partners. and finally launching and trading your new venture. 1. Put the customer at the heart of your proposition 2. Build a partnership based on complementary strengths 3. Choose a technology solution with an eye to the future 4. Invest in planning your project 5. Launch is the beginning of the journey not the end of the project But first let us define exactly what an MVNO is as the descriptions are varied and the market is littered with jargon. For the purposes of this paper an MVNO will be: An organisation that sells mobile communications services under its own brand and maintains customer ownership, but uses another operator s radio spectrum and infrastructure to deliver those services. The crucial point here is that the MVNO ultimately owns the customer and is therefore responsible for all elements of the customer proposition from pricing and billing to regulatory and legal responsibilities. Using the above definition there are more than 800 MVNOs trading and acquiring customers worldwide and it is a market where we have seen significant growth in both customer and revenue terms over the last three years. With seven billion SIM connections and 3.4 billion unique subscribers globally, mobile services have come to dominate national and international communications. Mobile is now not just critical to most telecoms operators, but also to major brands and many other types of organisation. And as mobile supports voice, video, messaging, data and content services, both opportunities and expectations are rising. Consolidated mobile network operators (MNOs) need returns on their network investments and MVNOs can offer them privileged access to particular mobile opportunities. Using their distinctive market insight and access, MVNOs can enhance customer value and create market advantage for themselves and their MNO partners. Distinct MVNO business models exist, including retail, brand, value, ethnic and niche, but all need the right commercial and technical platform on which to succeed backed by full support through launch, growth, retention and diversification. 1

3 Put the customer at the heart of your proposition The first element you must get right is your market positioning and your customer proposition. In a market such as the UK for an MVNO to be successful they will need to target a certain customer demographic or segment and more importantly they will need to do this more effectively than the MNOs or your competition. You must challenge yourselves with a number of crucial questions early on to ascertain whether an MVNO is the right vehicle for you to realise telecom revenues. Firstly does your brand have customer permission to play in the mobile arena? What is it your customers love about your brand and how would this translate into a mobile proposition? Is it your everyday low prices or your passion for quality? What has made your brand great? You need to test whether this translates well into the communications world and whether consumers feel that you are a credible organisation to provide a mobile service. If you are a new start up the process is probably even more difficult as you must define what you want to stand for and then build your brand around this. The second important area to consider early on is your distribution model, how effectively you can get your product to your customers and if you don t have your own distribution estate can you afford a third party to distribute for you. A new MVNO must consider these points and really understand where their strengths lie. Do you have access to a unique distribution channel, do you have a strong brand affinity with a certain segment, are you prepared to build a bespoke solution around your target customers? These will be the elements that will differentiate you from the competitors and will also make you more appealing to potential MNO hosts. In summary, how do you get the product in your customers hands cost effectively and how do you ensure that they continue to use it? Once you have decided how you will differentiate, you then need to continue to build your proposition around the customer. You must consider all elements of the customer experience and across the customer lifecycle from building awareness to purchase, from purchase to welcome, from welcome to development and then finally retention and leaving experience. All this needs to be considered in detail and delivered to ensure that it exceeds your target customer s expectations. At this point you may identify areas where you do not have the necessary skills or experience to deliver against your customer s expectations. Don t try and do everything unless you already have the capability. The second most important element to starting your MVNO is therefore identifying this and choosing complementary partners. 2

4 Build a partnership based on complementary strengths Now that you have developed your customer proposition you will need to move into the second phase of development which will be sourcing your partners. The first obvious partnership you will need to develop is with a host MNO or one of their Enabler partners In order to do this you will need to present your ideas and thoughts to the MNO and convince them that your proposition is well thought through, makes sound financial sense and will deliver the incremental customers that the network desires. Be wary of any organisation who does not quiz you hard on your assumptions, target market and forecasts for growth. These are the key factors to building a successful MVNO so if you get an easy ride it may suggest that the MNO or Enabler is less interested in your success and are seeking to make their money via set up and monthly fees rather than the usage metrics that typically drive the revenues of the MVNO and the MNO. These sessions with your MNO or Enabler are also an opportunity to demonstrate what your strengths are whilst getting support for areas where you are less experienced. At DIGITALK, we have the experience and specialist alliances to work with potential MVNOs to assist with areas where they may not have all the relevant skills. This includes marketing, financial modelling, technical integration, customer management, revenue assurance and fraud. We believe that it is in our interests to ensure that our MVNO partners are able to access the tools they need to make themselves successful. So what is an Enabler? Put simply an Enabler is an intermediary between the MNO and the MVNO that facilitates simpler connectivity to the MNO. The Enabler supports integration with the MNO and will then in turn enable many MVNOs via that one connection into the MNO. This has a number of advantages for both parties. Typically MNOs will have many hundreds of internal projects underway at any given time and adding a new MVNO will have an opportunity cost as resources are diverted to integrate with the MVNO. Direct MVNOs therefore typically have to have significant scale to feature on the MNO s roadmap. The commercial relationship may be between the MVNO and the MNO, with the Enabler working in support of the MNO. Alternatively, the Enabler may be a partner of the MVNO, forming part of the MVNO s proposal to the MNO. Once an Enabler is in place there is no need for additional integration, opening up opportunities for new MVNOs who may have previously struggled to build a business case that justified direct integration with the MNO. Enablers can also offer some additional capabilities in a far more bespoke offering than a large MNOs billing system can accommodate, further enhancing a segment targeted proposition. The motivations for the Enabler should be the same as those of the MNO. They should want to make you successful by helping to drive customer growth and usage, and they should be able to do this with a selection of service-ready tools 3

5 Choose a platform provider with an eye to the future How do you find the best technology partner? The simple answer to this is that it is the partner that offers you the most flexible solution to deliver your customer proposition. Look for a demonstrable roadmap of new capability deliveries, being able to deliver today s customer proposition is not enough. The mobile market is ever changing and technology systems that are easily and cost effectively scaled and upgraded are crucial. Investigate the business model and choose the appropriate model that will ensure that your business is sustainable, having no set up fees may get you to market cheaply but if the tradeoff is a significant per customer fee then this may impact on your success. Equally, ensure that the technical model is appropriate for your customer proposition. For example, a 4G bearer only offer is great if you are planning to target customers who will have access to 4G handsets but if you are after a low cost SIM only proposition it may not be appropriate. Ensure that your partner does not operate a fire and forget model. You may not be an expert in every facet of making an MVNO successful, and as your business grows you will encounter different issues or complications not obvious on day one. Make sure that your chosen partner has a track record of ongoing support and consultancy so you can draw on the wealth of experience to ensure your long term success. Most crucial of all is to find a partner that can demonstrate to you that they have a strong relationship with their host network, their current MVNO partners and are able to demonstrate a clear understanding of both the technology they are offering and the trends and pitfalls of the MVNO market. Seek out testimonials from existing MVNOs and ask to get access to the host MNO to establish the strength of the partnership and the strategic importance of MVNO revenues to the MNO. Clearly there will be some aspects that only the MNO can own, for example radio spectrum, but there may be other elements that any one of you could pick up. For example CRM tools may be available from your Enabler, the MNO or a variety of third parties who you may choose to engage. Clearly limiting the number of parties you will be managing will make your business far simpler, so where possible seek solutions that are available via your Enabler or MNO as this will significantly reduce project costs and benefit your time to market dramatically. As you are reviewing your technical partner s capability it is essential to consider the entire mobile value chain to determine which party will undertake what activities. It is also likely that tools already being used in the MVNO market will benefit from a defined roadmap of updated capabilities that your organisation can take advantage of. Most important of all, choose the organisation that you feel you can work closest with, if you have major concerns or differences at the outset this will be magnified and stress tested over the life of the relationship. The Enabler and MNO need to be a member of your virtual team - and committed to your success too. 4

6 Invest in planning your project Having chosen your partner be it directly with an MNO or via an Enabler, the most important next stage is to fully define the project and ensure you have rigorous project management and business analysis in place. Managing the launch of an MVNO is a significant undertaking and requires an experienced project team to deliver. Ensure that you accurately define exactly what your requirements are and ensure that all parties involved in delivery understand the requirements fully. DIGITALK has the project managers and technical experts who have been deeply involved with our existing MVNO customers, and the subsequent enhancements we have made for our partners. This experience is retained in our team and is available to assist any one of our new MVNOs customers. During the project build phase this experience pays back enormously, but for every project we still invest significant time in fully scoping the required solution and working with our partners to ensure we are all aligned before the build is undertaken. Having this joint understanding and experience in your delivery team means you are far better placed to deal with the inevitable scope creep when it arrives without impacting delivery deadlines. Launch is the beginning of the journey not the end of the project So finally that great day will arrive, the SIMs or handsets are in distribution, the press releases have been written, the sales teams are out on the street and the customer services team are awaiting their first interaction with a paying customer. It feels good, but don t kid yourself that this is the end it is just the beginning. As soon as you have customers you have churn to worry about and you must plan for this before you launch, not as an afterthought. You will need to constantly innovate with your proposition to retain your customers, you will need to consider how you predict churn and build retention schemes to reassure customers they are still offering the best service for their needs and you will need to constantly monitor the market to ensure you remain differentiated. It is at this point that your choice of technology and network partner will pay back. If you have chosen a true partnership you will be able to draw on experience and help to manage these challenges. It is likely you will already have visibility of a strategic roadmap of new products and services you can deploy to stay ahead of the competition and to constantly refresh your customer proposition. But it is when things are not going well that your relationship will really be tested. It may be that the market has changed dramatically, or that a key competitor has launched and is challenging your business, or it might be that your host MNO s retail team are aggressively targeting your market segment. Whatever the challenge, your partners should work together, taking whatever actions are necessary across the partnership to get the business back on track. It is this ongoing relationship and commitment to joint success which will ultimately lead to growing a successful MVNO in the mobile market. So to summarise, building a successful MVNO business follows exactly the same principles as building any other successful business. You identify a customer need, build a sound business pan, engage a team of dedicated experts to deliver it, and you continue to innovate to grow and expand the business. 5

7 Case Study Situation Having operated for some years a highly successful calling card service in southern Europe, sold both on-line and through a broad distribution network, the customer was looking to enter the mobile market to capitalise further on their experience and recognition. After engaging with a Mobile Network Operator, their next step was to identify a partner to support their MVNO service. Requirements While understanding that entering the mobile market required a new set of both technical and marketing skills and capabilities, the customer also recognised that maintaining a lean operations environment was going to be critical to their success in a highly competitive mobile market. Solution After evaluating a number of vendor options, the customer selected DIGITALK Prepaid Mobile as the solution that would both address their technical requirements and provide them with the flexibility and real-time control over their products, pricing and promotions that they needed to compete effectively. Benefits The customer has successfully managed the transition from fixed prepaid service provider to MVNO, with continuing subscriber and traffic growth based on innovative service offerings while maintaining their lean operations ethos. About DIGITALK We help service providers navigate and prosper in the changing world of communications services. We know how important it is to be agile, to adapt swiftly and easily to whatever comes along and to provide whatever support our customers need along the way. So we make it our business to provide flexible solutions that help you navigate whatever lies ahead - and we'll be there to support you and ensure your long term success. For innovative service providers there are significant business opportunities to be found in communications markets across the world. New technologies provide highly cost-effective ways for new players to leapfrog established operators and for existing companies to quickly diversify their services. DIGITALK provides operators and service providers of all types with a Cloud platform that allows them to exploit evolving network technologies across the mobile, fixed and broadband worlds to outflank their competitors. Providing solutions for over 15 years to hundreds of service providers around the world, we have the Cloud platform, applications and service to help service providers achieve long term success. 6

8 Head Office DIGITALK Limited Radian Court Davy Avenue Milton Keynes MK5 8PJ UK Global Contacts Brazil Germany Italy Singapore United Kingdom United States of America DIGITALK Limited 2015 All rights reserved. This Documentation contains proprietary information, which is the property of DIGITALK Limited and is protected by copyright law and international treaties. The information and intellectual property contained herein is confidential between DIGITALK Limited a nd the customer, and remains the exclusive property of DIGITALK Limited. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form without the prior written consent of DIGITALK Limited. Due to our policy of continued product development, the information contained in this document is subject to change without notice and does not represent a commitment on the part of DIGITALK Limited. Every effort is made to ensure the accuracy of this informat ion. However, DIGITALK Limited cannot warrant that the documentation is error -free, nor can it accept responsibility for errors and omissions. 7

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