2011, the Year of MVNOs?

As 2011 is advancing, operator’s strategies for this year appear more clearly and trends can already be spotted. One of the main lessons of these first months is the important activity surrounding MVNOs.

A MVNO, or mobile virtual network operator is a company that provides mobile phone services but does not own a licensed frequency of radio spectrum, nor does it necessarily have all of the infrastructure required to provide mobile telephone services.
MVNOs appeared in the early 2000s and there are now hundreds of them around the world, developed countries like USA, France or Germany having several dozens of them.

While Virtual Operators are not a new thing, there is a regain of activity around them as new technologies appear and telecommunication customers’ needs evolve and diversify, because these entities can offer more personalized services and approach targets that would be difficult to reach for the regular mobile network operators (MNOs).

In the UK for example, Everything Everywhere (the fusion of Orange and T-Mobile) is planning double digit growth in MVNOs over the next year as it launches an aggressive drive into the market. Jason Bellman, Everything Everywhere’s director of MVNO and wholesale operations, said ‘the operator is targeting the ethnic and b2b sectors’, where it is forecasting strong growth. It is also looking at ‘new commercial models that will move the traditional market forward’.

In the US, where the race for 4G is straining the network operators’ resources, structures are being reorganized. In their bid to keep up with the ambitious plans of the big two, smaller rivals are looking to cobble together combination of spectrum and MVNO partnerships. Sprint just announced they will provide 4G to their customers as MVNO on Clearwire’s WiMAX Network. These may enhance the scale and cost structure for Sprint but may also prove difficult to manage in future.

Additionally, some analysts see MVNO structure as a way for big actors like Google to enter the game of mobile communications. No official announcement supports this yet but the Internet giant has demonstrated in the past its ability to diversify with success.

One thing is certain, the MVNO model is nowadays attractive and a lot of activity is currently surrounding it. The participants to upcoming MVNO Industry Summit 2011 (held on 10th and 11th May in Barcelona) will certainly welcome these good news for their business.

O2 signs a M2M Network deal with G4S

Telefónica’s UK operation, O2, signed a deal with G4S (a security and smart metering firm) earlier in March to deploy a remote management and monitoring “M2M” network for their meters.

M2M, or Machine-to-Machine, is a technology that allows wired or wireless systems to communicate with other devices. A M2M Network relays events occurring in the monitored device to an application, which will translate this event into meaningful information.

The development of communication networks over the last decade leads to a diversification of the uses of M2M network and attracted the interest of many Mobile Operators.

M2M Networks are now used to monitor production machinery, fleet management and consumer product follow-up. They can also be used to update digital billboards or, as in the case of O2 today, help monitoring utility meters.

The M2M (machine-to-machine) connectivity market has always been very attractive for the specialists: mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) and M2M mobile operators (MMOs). These aggregators, such as Jasper Wireless and Aeris Communications, are leveraging the power for Operators’ Networks to answer the increasing demand from business and industries for specialized M2M solutions.

Mainstream mobile network operators (MNOs) are targeting the M2M market directly and publicly too.Among them are the Norwegian Telenor with their entities “Telenor Connexion” and “Telenor Objects” and several groups of operators like an alliance of AT&T, Rogers and Telcel or Vodaphone with Verizon.

With its multi-million dollars deal, O2 UK will provide a wireless M2M network to connect smart meters across the UK thanks to more than 200,000 dedicated SIM cards. The meters will use these SIM cards to send their status to O2 SMS gateways, reducing the economical and ecological cost of maintenance and inspection for these meters.

According to the wireless analyst firm Berg Insight, the number of cellular network connections worldwide used for M2M communication was 47.7 million in 2008. The company forecasts that the number of M2M connections will grow to 187 million by 2014.

Thailand Operators rethink their 3G Strategy

After the cancelation of the 3G licenses auctions few weeks ago, Thailand Operators are revising their plans for 3G deployment.

CAT Telecom is considering a U-turn in its mobile strategy, focusing on upgrading its own network to provide fast 3G service, because its attempt to take over the Hutch network, in which it is a partner, has been stalled.
The state telecom enterprise now wants to invest as much as 3.2 billion baht to upgrade the CDMA mobile network it operates in 51 provinces to high-speed downlink packet access technology, said a CAT board member who asked not to be named. CAT would use roaming service with other operators for areas in which it had no network infrastructure, he added.
The alternative upgrade plan is seen as more reliable and easier to manage in terms of CAT’s business development strategy. It would also speed up 3G technology development to take advantage of the vacuum created by the delay in 3G licence auctions.
CAT president Jirayuth Rungsrithong says he still supports the takeover plan as it would immediately add the 700,000 Hutch subscribers to the CAT network and generate 4 billion baht in revenue per year, compared with 800 million baht a year CAT earns from a revenue-sharing deal for Hutch.

In a related development, Wichian Mektrakarn, the chief executive of AIS, said the mobile market leader was prepared to become a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) for both TOT and CAT to provide 3G service in a complementary approach to its existing 2G services.

Additionally, Suroj Lamsam, senior executive vice-president of Loxley Plc, said his company also wanted to be an MVNO for CAT in order to maximise the utilisation of its facilities. Loxley is already an MVNO for 3G services on behalf of TOT.

Finally, TOT is preparing to sign data roaming and mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) agreements with the three operators at the same time and under the same terms for all. The three operators want to see a speedy agreement on TOT’s 3G network, but TOT is taking its time to study the impact a move will have on the five existing MVNO operators.
He said private operators were interested in data roaming and 3G service in the capital, but TOT’s 3G network only had capacity for 500,000 numbers. Previous roaming agreements were bilateral and allowed for voice roaming.

source: Bangkok Post

Acceleration of the deployment of 4G LTE Technology across the World

The need for faster and sturdier mobile data networks push carriers around the world to accelerate their deployment and trials of 4G LTE Technology.

In the United States,  Clearwire Corporation is announcing the start of trials expected to yield unmatched wireless speeds of 20-70 Mbps in “real-life” situation., significantly faster than the 5-12 Mbps expected from other local operators.

Meanwhile, a Samsung Executive declared last week that MetroPCS Communications Inc. will be the first US carrier to offer commercially 4G LTE services in the country. While Verizon, the nation’s biggest wireless carrier, plans to launch their own Long Term Evolution network by the end of the year, MetroPCS is expected to start its services no later than next month.

Europe is not late either. Sweden is leading the race, thanks to TeliaSonera who is already launching LTE services in a second major city in the country after Stockholm. They declare planning to rollout the service in 25 cities by the end of the year. Erik Hallberg, President of Mobility Services at TeliaSonera, revealed that the company’s rollout plan includes augmenting the 2600MHz LTE network with 800MHz frequencies, which it expects to receive via future bandwidth auctions.

LTE and WiMAX are the main pathways to 4G that MNOs have to pick between, and on which they can build their data handling capacities. While WiMAX has enjoyed a first mover advantage and a clear head-start, LTE is a natural progression for MNOs operating on GSM/UMTS networks, and that it offers the ability to lower the cost of delivering data services. For this reason, many believe that there will be a surge in the deployment of LTE networks in the coming years.

5 bidders expected in Thai 3G auction

Five companies bought bid documents for the 3G license auction when the National Telecommunications Commission opened the sale of bid documents. The NTC plans to hold the auction of licenses for 3G services in the fourth week of September.

AIS, DTAC and True Corp, the three main mobile operators of Thailand have bought bid documents for the 3G auction. The other two applicants are Samart and Loxley, who currently operate as MVNO under TOT.

The auctioning process has been regularly delayed and some problems are still to be solved. The starting bidding price for a 15-year license is set at THB12.8 billion (US$402.9 million). In addition, operators will have to follow strict regulations about foreign involvement in the companies, redistribution of the revenue and network capacity.

The auction could face further delays because the terms of three NTC members will expire next month and the regulator might be replaced by the new National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission. This could potentially leave the process open to legal challenge.