Friday, April 28, 2006

MVNO --> FVNO

There is a lot of talk around MVNO's at present.

Plus: with the announcement in the UK of 11 (eleven) new GSM licencees in the low power model Dean Bubley of Disruptive Wireless has good dialogue on what this means for the market space around MVNO's. He follows up yesterday with his take on the right time for SME MVNO's, this has long been the case in the wireline market with companies like Energis but the space has already started to develop with players like Genesis.

Minus: Sprint Nextel have been very vocal this week in stating their desire to try and slow down the emergence of MVNO's by minmizing their part in the MVNE space. Sprint are one of the key providers of Minutes of Usage (MOU's) that allow some of the new MVNO's in the US to be able to offer the voice and data services that are bundled into their brand centric offering. They wish to observe how the current ones (ESPN, Disney, Helio etc) perform before adding anymore.

This in many ways makes sense as there is a theoretical maximum number of MOU's that they can provide and I guess they wish to ensure that the right volume gets to the successful MVNO's as a preference. It also would imply that they are worried about diluting their own brand as they get pushed further and further into the background. Time will tell and I will continue to watch with interest to see how this plays out.

The part of the message I would like to take away on the announcement of new licence holders in the UK is the use of low power cells and the recognition on usage patterns.

I have talked about the difference between truly mobile use and transitory use. Most people are the second category, they carry their phone from home to the office and back again as they appreciate the convenience of having the device close to hand. They occasionally make calls whilst moving (cars, trains, walking) but mostly we are static users of mobiles.

I can see a time when I actually become a partner of the Mobile Operator rather that just a simple subscriber. Take the evolution and direction of FON and how they are building a network of WiFi cells by getting people to plug in to the network and share their access point.

I know better than the operator where I want to use my mobile handset. With that in mind I could open my WiFi (or more likely WiMax or Picocell derivative) up to the network as one of my "home cells". When making calls from within the cell, integrated with UMA, I would get preferential rates (hopefully free). If other subscribers call within my cell I get credit back in minutes of usage or cash on account.

I benefit as I have signal where and when I need it most. The network operator benefits as they get free network expansion. The model is similar to individuals that run their own wind turbine. What they don't use they sell back to the electricity board.

It's part Mobile Virtual Network Operator and part FON. Let's call it FONlike Virtual Network Operator (FVNO)

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