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Stop differentiating on price

Stand out from the crowd by delivering a personalised subscriber experience.

In December 2020, one of the most prominent UK mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) announced it was going all-in on the public cloud, and handing its technology infrastructure and application development to Amazon Web Services (AWS). Industry pundits said it was crazy to “sell its soul” to a third party. At that point, they had been winning awards since 2010—for innovation, for being the best MVNO, best telecom services provider, best network. Less than three months after the AWS announcement, the company won Uswitch Network of the Year 2021. A few months later, the company was number one in the UK in mobile customer satisfaction according to Which?, a consumer advice organization that has continued to recommend the MVNO ever since.


Was the company “selling its soul” to AWS, or was it making a decision to further solidify its net promoter score (NPS) leadership position? The move was, and continues to be, a success story because public cloud technology is a perfect fit for MVNOs. Let me tell you why.


MVNOs are racing to the bottom

When your product is based on someone else’s product—in this case, the mobile network operator’s (MNO’s) network—it's naturally a tough spot to be in. You’re not in control of the network, and it’s not your job to improve it. That’s why most MVNOs differentiate on price, in what has become a race to the bottom. The result turns the greatest product on earth—the network and all its glorious data—into a commodity, where everyone is offering the same basic service for a cheaper price. It’s the opposite of differentiation.


MVNOs should ditch the pricing games and instead stand out from the crowd by delivering excellent, personalized, subscriber experiences. And it’s now easier than ever to do that because there are telco tools built with public cloud technology available today.


Time for MVNOs to be like internet companies

The big MNOs may have huge subscriber bases—but they also have terrible net promoter scores. They own networks—but use antiquated client/server software built on last century’s technology. They are enterprises with a ton of talent—filled with bureaucracy and processes that entrench the status quo. Why are you trying to be like them?


Instead, you need to be like an internet company. Internet companies have small teams that move fast and turn on a dime. They have virtually zero infrastructure. They use the latest and greatest technology to their advantage—and to beat established players who lumber along with old, outdated systems.


When I think of the most successful internet companies, what really sets them apart and brings customers in droves is the highly personalized experience they offer. For example:

  • Uber knows exactly where I am in any city in the world, and can summon the nearest available car to pick me up and take me where I need to go;

  • Spotify finds new artists for me that I may like based on other people who enjoy the same music I like;

  • Similarly, Amazon is constantly recommending products based on what I’ve browsed and bought in the past, and what other people with similar shopping histories buy; and 

  • When I walk into an Apple store, the app knows I’m there to pick up an order and instantly notifies someone to bring it out to me.


Customers love it, and it brings them back to buy again and again. These companies have customer loyalty numbers that are through the roof. This is the experience MVNOs should be emulating!


With all the data we have—about the network, about how subscribers use their devices, and how often—there’s no reason we can’t do it, too. And we can do it better. We know if subscribers are streamers, gamers, texters, or Tik-Tokers. We know if they’re golfers, scuba-divers, or soccer moms. We know when they travel. We know where they go. This kind of data, when used right, can be used to deliver tailored, timely offers that increase satisfaction and drive up average revenue per user (ARPU).


So far, MNOs haven’t been able to convert. They're too busy building and operating their networks. They’re still trying to figure out how to bring their legacy IT technology into the 21st century, trapped under tons of customizations and loads of technical debt.


Luckily, MVNOs don't have these problems. It’s time to ask yourself: Why are you trying to be like a telco? Instead, use your small size, your wealth of subscriber data, and your freedom from bureaucracy and outdated technology to create better, more personalized experiences for your subscribers.


Get the tools you need in the public cloud

As the telco public cloud evangelist, I talk about the public cloud for MNOs, both big and small, and why they should be using it. And now I'm telling you, MVNOs, that you should be using it, too.

Here’s why:

  • It’s cheaper: With public cloud infrastructure and services, there’s no upfront purchase cost and nothing to install. Services are priced by the use, so you never pay for more than you need and no long-term contracts;

  • It’s easier: You don’t need an IT team to manage it. With SaaS products, the platform is managed for you; and

  • It’s faster: You can experiment and bring new ideas to market in less time and at a lower cost.

The public cloud is a gift. It democratizes technology, giving you world-class software at a price you can afford, with the ability to scale and pay as you grow.


Meet Totogi’s Charging as a Service

For CSPs, it all starts with charging and plan design. In addition to being a public cloud evangelist, I’m also the acting CEO of an exciting SaaS startup called Totogi, where we are building a business support system (BSS) enhancement platform to help you do everything I’ve been talking about, but especially to help deliver personalized experiences to your subscribers.


Totogi’s Charging as a Service is built on AWS, so every time AWS improves one of the services we sit on, we get a free upgrade. It’s the same with our charging platform. It’s also a service, so whenever we post an update, all of our customers get it simultaneously and instantly.


Totogi, like a lot of cloud-based business tools, has a free tier, so you can try it with zero risk. We also have a super easy plan design system and an awesome engine. But what really sets us apart is the ability to personalize. We use machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) to identify APRU-lifting opportunities to tailor an individual’s plan based on their individual habits—and automatically create a new plan using powerful APIs. The future of BSS has arrived. It’s personalized, and it’s a game-changer.


Why now?

Until now, it’s been prohibitively expensive for MVNOs to get anything like this from any BSS vendor. An installation from Amdocs, Ericsson, or even a smaller player costs millions to tens of millions to install and maintain. For MVNOs with thin margins, that high price tag, plus the months required for implementation, have historically added up to an unsolvable equation.


But the public cloud, along with cloud-based tools like Totogi, changes all that. It delivers lower, flexible pricing for world-class, carrier-grade software. You don’t have to settle for less anymore. You can plug into the public cloud and modernize your offering, personalize the subscriber experience, build loyalty, and drive up ARPU.


That’s how you become an internet company. That’s how you get to number one in customer satisfaction and not only crush the competition, but actually reduce your churn and grow your ARPU.


Keep your eye out for my keynote at MVNO Nation Live, where I’ll be doing a demo of Totogi and sharing even more about creating personalized subscriber experiences. See you there!

About the author

Danielle Royston,

CEO and Founder, TelcoDR

& Acting CEO, Totogi

Danielle Royston is Founder and CEO of TelcoDR and the acting CEO of Totogi. She has 25 years of enterprise software experience – the last 10+ as a CEO specializing in turnarounds. As telecom’s leading public cloud evangelist, Royston has raised $1Billion to fundamentally transform telco software, propelling the industry to new heights with the power of the public cloud. Widely recognized as a thought leader, Royston has been asked to speak on some of the biggest stages in the industry and featured in numerous publications. She resides in Austin, TX, and holds a B.S. in computer science from Stanford University.

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