When considering an MVNO as a value add to an existing core business or maybe as a standalone enterprise, contracting with a commercial MVNE to create an MVNO startup is an option that encapsulates the largest percentage of carrier complexities and exposes a simplified interface to network and OSS/BSS services; greatly reducing implementation timeframes, overhead and costly mistakes.
If the MVNE operates as an MVNA (mobile virtual network aggregator), your business may also have access to multiple carriers from a single, standard service integration. This option is especially important is your business plans include devices that operate over differing network frequencies or your target demographic is distributed across diverse cellular coverage areas.
Besides providing all of the benefits of partnering directly with a carrier, an MVNE may offer additional services and cost savings that carriers do not provide…or that your business plan determines are too resource prohibitive to implement internally. Some examples of these services include order management, provisioning, fulfillment and customer service.
While selecting an MVNE can be just as challenging as working directly with a carrier, a good MVNE should be able to succinctly address each of your operational concerns and bring a superior level of mentoring, service and support to your company at a level more aligned with your objectives.
Expertise and Guidance
One of the clear benefits of working with an MVNE is the additional expertise your company will gain. An MVNE has already completed at least one carrier integration and is actively working in the mobile industry. This experience immediately provides a partner that may have much more knowledge of carrier operations than your team possesses.
An MVNE wants to onboard its clients as quickly and accurately as possible.
If your organization is new to the mobile industry, then your MVNE should have a consultative approach and willingness to help guide your team through the planning and implementation phases. If your company is experienced, then your MVNE should help advance your knowledge and be forthcoming with new information and guidance.
You must be able to trust your MVNE partner to provide the best advice and service possible. Having a mobile consultant on your team is a good way to vet through each expectation to ensure the selected MVNE will deliver.
Speed to Market
Leveraging an MVNE to fulfill your mobile service goals will happen much faster than if your company implemented the services internally.
An MVNE should have the administrative systems in place to offer managed network services or client self-administration. A full service MVNE will also provide business supporting services like device procurement, ecommerce, billing, order management, fulfillment and customer sales and support.
Experienced MVNEs will have mobile service marketing and product development skills on staff to help direct your team’s product and service offering, brand presence and digital marketing strategies.
And if your company already has an operational plan and systems in place to deliver your mobile services, then the MVNE should be able to provide robust API integration options to fully connect your systems with the available network services.
A mobile consultant can help your business understand how the MVNE operates and where your operational processes need to integrate in order to automate operations between your organizations.
Working directly with a large carrier requires carrying a considerable amount of financial risk due to the underlying costs incurred by the carriers to operate a mobile network. By working with an MVNE your company can reduce that risk.
An MVNE will have multiple clients and can afford to share the financial burden imposed by the carrier across multiple organizations so your company’s risk mitigation strategy can be focused on more realistic goals; especially when first ramping up operations.
When negotiating with an MVNE you will want to ensure your agreement is aligned with your expected risk acceptance and not tipped in the MVNEs favor. This is where a mobile consultant can really save your company money by helping you negotiate rates, deposit requirements and contract terms.
More Options to Choose From
There are a lot more MVNEs than there are significant carriers so the option to shop and compare services is much greater.
I strongly advise shopping at least two if not three providers to gain a clear comparison of each vendors business operations and perspective on the industry. The evaluation of providers should be comprehensive and apples-to-apples to receive the full benefits of the analysis.
A mobile industry consultant is a good choice for these evaluations as they will succinctly create detailed lists and criteria to be considered and will likely have established contacts already in place to help speed up the process.
Better Support and Willingness to Innovate
Carriers for the most part are rigid when it comes to exposing one-off features or implementing custom solutions. Their business model is to appeal to a standard set of services and depending upon the size and scale of their operations, the idea of absorbing the overhead to maintain an ad hoc implementation is usually either flat out rejected, comes with an enormous price tag, or gets dumped into the product development cycle for consideration in a year or two.
MVNEs fill this innovation void by being much more flexible and willing to entertain custom scenarios. Especially if the request is fully within their control. Obviously, if the request requires an underlying carrier change the same issues apply, but typically the MVNE will have greater pull than your company would have and may be able to convince a carrier to move forward where your attempts may fail.
It is also important to consider the closer support relationship an MVNE will provide that a large carrier will not. An MVNE is much closer to the ground and involved in your day-to-day operations. Their willingness to help your company grow efficiently and improve quality in operations must be considered a value add when compared to working directly with a carrier.
Niche Services and Solutions
This is an area an MVNE really shines in my opinion.
A solid MVNE should be providing systems and services that fully eliminate the need for your company to implement or at the very least strongly augments your operational systems.
How many companies really want to implement a telecommunications based order management or billing system? Most companies would opt to leverage an established solution and incorporate that solution into their workflows. A good MVNE will provide these options.
OSS/BSS areas to consider when evaluating an MVNE include.
- Device procurement. Does the MVNE have the capability to obtain mobile equipment for your company?
- Ecommerce support. Does the MVNE provide ecommerce services or systems and APIs to support dynamic mobile commerce?
- Order management. Does the MVNE have a robust order management system in place?
- Telecommunications billing. The MVNE must have the capability to provide at least basic billing and usage mediation services.
- Consumer billing. Ideally the MVNE will have solutions in place to support your consumer billing needs.
- Order and service fulfillment. Does the MVNE provide pick, pack and ship services? What about reverse logistics?
- Provisioning. Can the MVNE provide managed provisioning services?
- Customer Sales. Does the MVNE provide customer sales and managed services?
- Customer Service. Can the MVNE provide consumer technical and mobile services support?
- Abstract Interfaces. Can the MVNE provide all of their services via API for full client integration and self-service?
A benefit of using an MVNE that is often overlooked is the long-term management of underlying carrier changes. Like all businesses, carriers make changes to their operations, pricing, usage collection and network requirements all of the time as they improve their product and service offerings, improve internal efficiencies or meet regulatory requirements.
An MVNE will shield your organization from the majority of this activity; which reduces your ongoing maintenance requirements, systems overhead and operational process changes.
MVNA services are also a unique offering that most companies cannot implement on their own. An MVNA is a type of MVNE that has contracts with more than one carrier and provides access to those carriers through, hopefully, a common set of interfaces. For example, to gain access to carrier services, an MVNE with multiple carriers may provide its clients with an administrative portal for adding new consumer accounts and device lines that is common for both carriers.
Given the many differences between carriers, if your company’s business plan requires access to multiple carriers for coverage, device availability or brand recognition then an MVNE with this level of sophistication is something to strongly consider.
All of these additional benefits come at a cost of course. At the end of the day, to justify the additional expense, an MVNE must show its value through reduced operational overhead, faster speed to market, quality, tight carrier integration, simplified workflows and superior business support systems and services.
Evaluating an MVNE and determining the best fit for your specific business needs requires a considerable amount of planning and foresight. Having a knowledgeable resource or resources on your team will help ensure your selection meets your objectives and helps enhance your business value.