Tuesday, September 26, 2006

MVNO Strategies & Markets Day 1 - here come the Hybrid MVNOs

Posting this week from the Informa MVNO Strategies & Markets conference in New York. The theme of the conference is "Sustainable Business Models."

The first message at the conference, sounded by Andrew Cole, president of CSMG, and Tammy Parker, Informa principal analyst, is: hybrid is the next wave of MVNOs (what the hell is an MVNO? check here). A hybrid is an MVNO that works closely with its network operator and relies on that partnership for many of its wireless back-office and operational needs. The MVNO provides brand, marketing and (often) proprietary content. Rather than receiving a wholesale rate for minutes and megabytes, the network operator shares in the venture's revenue.

Amp'd Mobile's deal with Telus in Canada is the best example of the hybrid model. Amp'd provides their branded content and customized handsets, while Telus provides sales & distribution, network, customer care, billing, collections, etc. Boost Mobile's relationship with its parent Sprint Nextel is a variant of this approach.

What are the advantages for MVNOs? Especially for companies with limited telecom experience (and little desire to build it), the hybrid model allows the MVNO to focus on what it does best--be that distribution, content or branding. The network operator can leverage its existing investments in customer service, billing, etc. It also is proving attractive to the network operators--an important consideration in a market where an MVNO with no network contract has no business.

Hybrid MVNOs will not replace the standard arm's length relationship of MVNO to network operator, but they represent an important evolution that will be an important segment of the MVNO market into the future.

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