For many players in the MVNO market, some solace it the face of this hugely disrupted market has come from partnering – finding mutually beneficial opportunities with others also needing to adapt.
“If you were to write down the capabilities, the essences, of coming up with an MVNO and successfully running it, the first item you would put would be to come up with new partnerships and successfully pursue them,” says Hakan Demir General Manager and Founder of Fenercell. “They are essential. Without one, you can’t run an MVNO.
“They need to be cleverly selected and orchestrated. We at Fenercell have had about 30 over the course of our existence. Some have faded away, some have become stronger over time. Personally, I would rather have partnerships with people who are already experts, rather than gaining this expertise ourselves. Upskilling internally is very expensive and hard to do. I feel that the leaner the organisation, the better. Also, each partnership should have a long-term vision, and everyone should gain something from them.”
James Gray, Managing Director at Graystone Strategy, agrees. “Mobile network operators work with MVNOs because they give them access to new customers, or access to new channels, and incrementally grow the customers on their network. It’s a pretty core principle.”
Many argue that what we’ve seen both with MVNOs and MNOs is that, as the lines between pure telecoms and the way consumers use their telecoms products blur, there has become an even greater need for even more partnering. Take content partnerships for example – allowing customers to buy Netflix through their device as part of their subscription, for example. That’s a clear opportunity. Other examples include general partnerships that support with running applications or software – either in the front end or the back end – that allow MVNOs to either improve their business experience or intelligence.
So, what might the partnerships of the future look like? “I see the whole market moving to digital sales and service models with a reduced dependence on physical distribution, all in order to deliver an improved customer experience,” says Gary Bhomer, Principal and Founder at Tel-consult.
“We’ve seen a number of examples whereby MNOs are launching digital-only sub-brands to target the budget-conscious end of the market, which is where MVNOs have traditionally been focused,” he continues. “As a result, MVNOs are having to partner with business support system and operations support system providers to deliver a complete digital exchange-to-exchange service proposition.”
He cites Circles.Life as an example, an MVNO that is targeting young and digital-savvy customers with cloud-based, personalised digital telecommunications services with simple data-focused plans, a seamless onboarding process and an easy-to-use app.
Gray agrees that the future of the model will most likely see the sector rely even more heavily on partnerships. “It’s an important aspect of the ecosystem, and always has been,” he says. “But it’s probably becoming more so, because there are so many different applications and different methods for providing worth for organisations using this model.”
Experts certainly seem to agree that digitalisation, differentiation and driving value for both parties are the cornerstones of strong, worthwhile partnerships for MVNOs.