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ByIain Cheyne

MVNO business processes are essential for scaling, growing and expanding an MVNO / IoT provider

MVNOs and IOT providers have to attract customers early. When they have a new and competitive offering and marketing money is being spent, it is essential that an MVNO attracts customers. This creates a situation where a new business has to manage a sharp influx in business all at once and all the business process challenges that creates. If the MVNO fails to get a grip on its processes and this causes significant problems for customers, their brand can be badly damaged.

A good example of this happening in telecoms, if not to an MVNO, was when TalkTalk launched in 2005. This upstart ISP was going to revolutionise the business by offering “free internet”. They launched at speed. I was working for Carphone Warehouse (the parent company of TalkTalk) at the time. I wasn’t working on TalkTalk projects but everyone at the base level was talking about the reckless timescales being forced on them by TalkTalk management. After they launched there were huge problems with connecting people to the new service which made newspaper headlines. A customer satisfaction poll by uSwitch in November 2006 placed TalkTalk and Orange joint bottom for customer satisfaction. TalkTalk managed to recover and now has a reasonable position in the UK broadband market, but MVNOs need to learn the lesson.

The only way to scale quickly but reliably is to to have a grip on your business processes and to constantly adapt them as the business changes. Without this one department will make a change without thinking about the consequences for another department. That department will be unable to cope with this unannounced change and customers will be left in the lurch. We need to establish clear contracts between teams, or internal Service Level Agreements (SLA), that define the Five Ws – who, what, where, when and why of what needs to be done.

Documenting these internal SLAs can be done in many ways. A simple document living in Confluence or Sharepoint might be enough. Alternatively the formality of a document in a legal style can be a good way to focus everyone’s attention. A link to a proper legal contract may be required with third party suppliers. We always prefer to use process flow diagrams as they are faster to create and easier to understand and communicate. At the least they can supplement formal documentation.

This example diagram took me around 5 minutes to draw. Describing this process in writing would take far longer and would have much more ambiguity.

Clear business processes make it possible to use low code business process orchestration tools to automate repetitive tasks in billing and customer support. The diagram above was created in one of these tools. These tools allow fast creation of user interfaces that customer support teams can use to drive consistent processes and communicate between their teams. The low price and flexibility of these systems allow them to be the duct tape that glues your system together temporarily or permanently in times of uncertainty and fast change. Integration can be set up between your existing systems and change can be made as quickly as the systems were set up in the first place.

Having clear and documented business processes help MVNOs stay lean and agile. They keep costs down while improving service. Virtuser can guide and help you establish rock solid business processes while keeping flexibility.

ByIain Cheyne

MVNO Churn from Broken Processes

MVNOs are service management businesses. Their reason to exist is to bring cheaper prices and better service to customers than network operators. MNVOs do this by being more agile and focussed on customer needs than the network operators.

The main indicator that network operators look for in a successful, profitable MVNO is low churn. O2 recognised this early and have advanced from 50% of the UK market with three MVNOs and now they have 70% with two more.

The MVNO industry recognises this and makes customer service their top priority. The Consumers Association in the UK (usually known as Which?) surveys and ranks all networks in the UK for customer satisfaction. In 2022, the top eight were all MVNOs. O2 was the highest ranked MNO in 8th place.

This lack of focus on business processes eats into the profits of the network operators. For example, eSIMs have been far slower to take off than we envisioned 10 years ago. Part of this is because network operators usually still need physical SIMs as their processes have not flexed to handle eSIMs. MVNOs have moved into that gap and are capturing the market.

Establishing and recording business processes helps teams communicate and have clear boundaries. Hand offs between teams are where processes fall down when there is business change. If the end-to-end process is not examined, tested and revised based on a feedback loop, breakdowns will happen, leading to churn. There has to be a high-level strategic view of how teams cooperate between each other. Relying on goodwill to handle broken processes does not scale over time.

A common trap in large, older organisations is that processes are held in a few core peoples’ heads. Managers have to establish a culture of knowledge sharing through documentation. A classic, world-leading example of this from another industry, is Toyota. Their Lean Manufacturing method relies on continuous improvement and respect for people. Their whole culture pivots on improvement of processes ingrained at the lowest level. Toyota cars are world industry leaders in reliability. The MVNO industry needs to embed these lessons.

MNOs and MVNOs all offer a similar process chain from SIM provisioning to customer onboarding to retention. This has been codified in a telecoms industry-standard operating model – the Business Process Framework (eTOM).

The eTOM is exhaustive and fits MNOs, but a lightweight approach is better for MVNOs with tight margins and fast timelines. The right balance is essential. Too much process and money wastes in bureaucracy. Too little process and customers churn as business processes fall apart. Process management does not need large teams of permanent employees. A lightweight approach is best but regular review and constant oversight with clear process owners is essential.

MVNOs need to follow telecoms industry regulations, laws and standards. Business processes help MVNOs comply by providing a framework for decision-making and operations. MVNOs have to prove that they are in full control of their business.

Virtuser have always worked with larger companies. Our agility gives us an advantage in integrating with ponderous big firms. Our modern, advanced tools allow us to have lightweight processes. Twenty years ago, managing an HSS would have meant editing configuration files on physical servers in a datacentre. Digital transformation gives us a single GUI that can handle all core processes in the cloud. One of our clients recently provisioned 67,000 SIMs by accident. Our main network operations teams were in a different time zone. Rather than wake that team up in the middle of the night, we were able to cancel the SIMs in minutes. Our advanced tooling and deep industry experience means we can adopt lightweight processes. We understand the importance of establishing an organisation level process view.

MVNOs must have a tight grip on processes because agility and service are top priority. Virtuser have the experience and expertise to help you control them with an agile, lightweight approach.

ByChristian Borrman

3 key MVNO Success factors over 20+ years of doing MVNOs and every one launched still being in business…

So many people ask what is the best type of MVNO to back either as an investor, a brand or working with MNOs, and MVNEs and MVNEs to define their strategy: At the end of the day backing an MVNO is like backing any business and a lot comes down to the team, product and market, but even then even a good team with the right product in the right market can not be successful for many reasons we cannot go into in a #shorts however there are three critical sucecss factors I have seen all successful MVNOS have over 2 decades of launching MVNOs (and every one we have launched still being in business!) Loyalty – if your MVNO is driving loyalty for your main business it will work, an example here is Tesco Mobile; people who have tesco mobile spend more of the grocery spend with that supermarket. These are business that have launched everything from banks, to video services, to insurance and more of the loyalty tie-ins but nothing is like Mobile for loyalty. Stickiness – Virgin media reported in a recent conference paper that 50% of their Mobile Capex was amortised alone in longer Broadband lifecycles… MVNO or bust – if your core business is or was dying, e.g. calling cards, some mobile first services, mobile app services, without an MVNO then… that is what you need to do. We will see everything from dating sites to social networks at least trying this before falling from favour / to competition.

See the long form video of this short below:

ByChristian Borrman

Keep it Simple Short form video

There are two very simple reasons to keep it simple in Mobile, MVNO, IoT and even MVNE, MVNA, MVNx: 1) Simple sells; 2) your competitors think it won’t! (never underestimate how much your competitors will try and thwart what they see as a “competitive” service / tariff)… (or how they won’t see a simple tariff overtaking the market until its too late).

ByChristian Borrman

Will 5G enable driverless cars as the hype says?

Not a day goes by without a mention of 5G enabling something or other, yet, most of the devices we are installing in cars are 4G devices, replacing 2G and 3G devices. Many vehicles I have driven from Volvo, BMW, Mercedes and more have radar / lidar in the front and numerous cameras and promise some of the lower levels of car self driving (there were 5 at the last count, if you car to google them and disappear down that rabbit hole)… however they didn’t even managed to stay in lane on a motorway with perfectly maintained lanes and lines, not even enough to make for example eating a sandwich more comfortable, let alone automated while I keep watch, as the marketing hype suggested I could. 

So if “lane maintenance” cannot even reliably keep a car in a lane in a motorway for a few seconds to bite a sandwich in peace, let alone take the hand away from the wheel, or even reliably alert to lanes in a motorway, what is the point of the massive computer under the seat / in the boot, etc consuming all that power? how is 5G going to solve this? Well the biggest problem is data and reference points: We learn from watching, storing and sharing information. Mst of today’s vehicle systems watch, analyse and throw away or store to be overwritten. This is like trying to learn and teach while being a hermit with amnesia. So in theory 5G can come in here by enabling that data to be sent somewhere where it can be stored, analysed, exceptions handed off to a human with real intelligence vs. AI (think voice recognition was useless until the exceptions were centralised and humans analysed them, categorised them and machines learned (and still learn) from this. 

However is this a useful use of (expensive) resources, when the lines are going to get dirty, be repainted, covered with skid marks, dirt, etc. when arguably we should just take the time to eat the sandwich out of the car and keep our hands on the wheel anyway… which brought me to the reason we are taught, certainly in advanced driving, to keep both hands on the wheel, in a position in which we can apply leverage to the wheel as we never know what may happen; a blow out, the car step out, or indeed an animal step out; the infamous moose test! This coincided with a news article of a self-driving car not even seeing a tram in a city it was developed to drive in and so should have, you know the ability to identify a tram. 

And this is where not just network speed, sending data and storing data comes in, but also the analysing of data. See, people think a camera is a camera, but they are not (see my other article coming out on the use of smart glasses for AI and AR from work we are doing in logistics and factories with 5G), however a static camera makes AI a LOT easier, as there are many constants; like the size of the object in relation to its distance. with a vehicle this is more difficult as, well the vehicle, and therefore the camera is moving along at least one or two axis. Take this to a headcam and the variables become literally mind boggling, and as a result AI boggling too.

Which brings us back to the infamous moose test, or even let’s call it a tram test. If we take a number plate: something that for a given country is the same size, shape and colour, with standard letters and font; while a static camera on a building may resolve these in high ninety percents, a moving car will be in low nineties in good day light, with few dead flies on the lens, mainly because of the varying size of the plate in the first place. As a crash course in AI, ANPR usually identifies a vehicle, then a plate and from there will apply the OCR. So if something as uniform as a number plate confuses, imagine a moose. Then there is the unpredictability of some herbivores, including moose. 

However let’s imagine that the camera on a moving car evolves to 100% number plate detection and then 100% moose identification, and that said moose moves predictably into our path on a moose test… any of you who can do a manual or wheelie on a bike for any period of time, or balance a car in a drift, let alone on its side wheels; would you care to outsource this to a computer? the amount of processing required could very quickly overwhelm even the fastest processors and networks, so what difference does 5G make here, or even future 10G?

Well, I suppose we have to start somewhere, and to learn we first need to share, analyse and start learning, and that is where not just the faster speed, but the lower latency of 5G come in, and I dare say a lot of the hard learning, sharing and analysis will be done on Private 5G.

What #machinelearning and #AI needs most in this space, and many related spaces is #data: #real, varied, #histroric and #realtime data – no matter how intelligent a person is; without an education, sharing and analysis… and even then… #newmoosetest working in AI, may not be able to work in all the scenarios a non artificial moose test actually happens, no matter how fast the network or how low its latency. 


ByChristian Borrman

5G Will change the World – Almost

will #5G change the #IoT #AI #VR #AR #world? Sort of with help of #Private5G otherwise #ymmv #shorts

ByChristian Borrman

Private 5G and Private LTE – why its a game changer part 1 (locally in a factory, port, airport, etc)

Private 5G & Private LTE is typically faster more reliable with better coverage and lower latency even than fibre here in my case, let alone wi-fi so what are you waiting for: from simple opensource to full commercial rollout the benefits are plain to see, even over stateofart wifi6 dualwan fibre in my case

ByChristian Borrman

Global Roaming is changing with IoT and Globalisation, well the original concept is now close to half a century old…

The days of getting a none tier 1 MNO universal roaming at usable rates are gone, and even for the big tier 1 groups, with massive romaing bases, while zone 1 and zone 2 roaming rates are usable (typically 30-50 countries) the reality is that the other nearly 200 countires in zones 3, 4 and 5 and RoW are just not usable. Ant that is a tier 1 MNO. The new strategies in the eSIM and 100s of % growth in IoT world means a full strategy involves multiple IMSIs sometimes multiple Sims, eSIMs (don’t worry if you are not yet eSIM capable, there are work arounds used by even tier 1 MNOs as well as MVNOs all over the world) and even leveraging MVNO agreements as well multiple IMSI agreements, and finally smarter SIM tools and using this traffic to accelerate your existing IR 21 and create a bespoke roaming footprint that suits your customer base not just whatever you could get on an IR 21 and a hub. This is not just a reality of volume, but also the nature of today’s global world, where roam like at home in a few neighbouring and high volume countries is just not good enough.

ByChristian Borrman

1 minute video – why ousourcing key mobile functions makes your buisiness quicker to move and cheaper to run

An IoT company or MVNO will never have full time staff for all the functions an MNO does, as they have up to tens of thousands of employees and still outsource a lot of key roles!

Mobile technology is generally hard… that is why most MNOs employ tens of thousands, thousands or even hundreds (smaller ones) of people and still have a lot of work outsourced. IoT and MVNO and MVNEs typically have small teams focussed on mostly selling and keeping their core service or core businesses new and existing customers happy. Employing a mobile team can be expensive, time consuming, and even then not get results as, let’s face it, when was the last time you needed to set up a SIM profile, IR21, learn and spot the latest fraud trends or process a batch of CDRs… these and many more are tasks that MNOs will have someone for, but it’s just not cost effective for an MVNO or IoT business to have around or even worry who they report to, or indeed that their skillset is becoming out of date as they are not working with lot’s of different businesses… In this series we will be exploring more of these areas and 1 min updates on key parts of the mobile ecosystem.. so grab a tea or coffee 😉

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