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.

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