Vodafone Italia and TIM join the network sharing bonanza

Vodafone’s Italian business and Telecom Italia are the latest pair to join the sharing euphoria which seems to be sweeping the Vodafone group.

After network sharing agreements were signed in Spain with Orange and O2 in the UK, Vodafone has swept across to Italy to join forces with market leader, albeit a stressed business currently, Telecom Italia.

“This agreement will enable us to step up the rollout of 5G for the benefit of our customers and the community as a whole,” said Aldo Bisio, CEO of Vodafone Italia. “5G has a key role to play in modernising the country.

“It will provide the technology platform from which to launch innovative new services capable of making business models more efficient and improving productivity throughout the value chain, helping to build a more competitive digital economy. Network sharing reaps the benefits of 5G and at the same time reduces the impact on the environment and lowers rollout costs, allowing more investment in services for customer.”

This announcement actually has two components to it. Firstly, in pursuit of an accelerated 5G deployment plan, Vodafone Italia and TIM will enter into a network sharing partnership which will include active equipment. Secondly, the Vodafone passive tower business will be merged with INWIT, TIM’s own tower business.

Starting with the first component, once again Vodafone has decided to go down the route of sharing active equipment. This was the case when pooling resources in the UK with O2, though it is a slightly unusual approach as the only differentiator now is the spectrum which the duo has acquired individually. However, like the UK the larger cities will be excluded from the network sharing partnership.

Although sharing active equipment has been viewed as relatively unusual in the past, perhaps this is an indication of Vodafone’s position in both of these markets. In the UK, it is sitting firmly in third place in the market share rankings with a lot of ground to make up, while in Italy there are financial pressures thanks to the pricing disruption of Iliad. In both cases, Vodafone will welcome opportunities to free-up cash.

Using this approach, Vodafone suggests it will be able to free-up €800 million over the next 10 years which will certainly be useful for other R&D or reallocating for customer acquisition efforts.

The second aspect of this deal will see the Vodafone Italia tower business merge with TIM’s INWIT, with Vodafone taking a 37.5% and a lump sum of just over €2 billion. What we’re not too sure about is how this will impact the potential spin-off of Vodafone’s tower business in the future.

This was an announcement which got investors excited last week, as Group CEO Nick Read suggested monetizing the tower infrastructure business alongside declining revenues for the latest quarterly statement. This seemed to have forced a positive reaction from the market, though presumably any Italian assets would now have to be excluded from a European-scaled tower infrastructure business.

Coopetition is becoming permanent fixture of 5G world

It might be a management consultant phrase, enough to have some clawing their eyes out, but coopetition is quickly becoming the norm as telcos drive towards the elusive goal of ROI.

The latest firms to enter into the new-era relationship are Orange and Proximus. Announced this week, the duo has signed a term-sheet to enter into a mobile access network sharing agreement by the end of the year. The scope of the partnership will be to meet raising demands in terms of mobile network quality and indoor coverage.

“The signing of the term sheet is an important step in reaching a final mobile access network sharing agreement between Proximus and Orange Belgium,” said Dominique Leroy, CEO of Proximus. “It will allow us to embark on a faster and broader 5G roll-out while improving mobile network capacity and coverage to the benefit of our customers and while keeping a strong and differentiated customer experience.”

“Mobile access network sharing is a trend in Europe which benefits consumers, as it enables more efficient investments to cope with the increasing data consumption,” said Michaël Trabbia, CEO of Orange Belgium. “The timing of this mobile access network sharing agreement is important as it will allow us to accelerate 5G roll-out, while bringing significant environmental benefits by reducing the combined energy consumption by 20%.”

This is a very simple partnership ultimately. The two telcos will enter into a shared infrastructure agreement, it seems both passive and active infrastructure is included but will rely on their own spectrum to differentiate on customer experience. This does appear to be an increasingly common strategy across the European continent to drive the commercial appeal of the connectivity business.

Another example of such business is in the UK, where the telcos have paired off to create joint-ventures to own and manage passive infrastructure in certain regions. CTIL and MBNL are the JVs in question and allow the four MNOs to share the expensive job of civil engineering but differentiate their offerings on the active equipment being installed on the masts and spectrum assets.

One of the reasons such partnerships are becoming more common across Europe is scale. With more than 100 different telcos across the continent, the telcos cannot achieve the same subscriber bases as counterparts in the likes of the US and China. This impacts procurement strategies as well as the ability to drive ROI in the mid-term.

Bearing this in mind, densification and network rollout into the rural communities becomes a problem. 5G is eventually going to force the telcos to acquire more mobile sites in the urban areas, to deal with the traffic increases but also to compensate for shorter spectrum ranges on higher-frequency bands. The rural environments are of course less commercially attractive due to the lower population density, but there are both commercial and regulatory demands to prevent a digital divide.

“The deal between Orange and Proximus is just the latest in a series of network partnerships designed to keep a lid on costs and accelerate deployment,” said Kester Mann of CCS Insight. “This is particularly important at the start of the new 5G era as operators continue to scratch their heads over the business case for investment.

“Although the approach could limit opportunities for operators to differentiate based on connectivity, it could free up investment in other areas such as content, vertical markets and new services. This can only be to the benefit of the consumer.

“We should expect further industry collaboration going forward. This could include the possibility of more innovative models such as shared networks between all operators in a single market or ownership of assets such as spectrum and infrastructure by independent third parties or even government.”

Another recent example of this type of coopetition is in Japan. Last week, KDDI and Softbank came to an agreement to share infrastructure in rural environments. This initiative is also geared towards reducing the burden of capital expenditure in delivering 5G to every corner of society. TIM and Vodafone Italia are another duo exploring the coopetition play to tackle the issue of rural 5G connectivity.

Elsewhere in the telco world, coopetition is emerging in the services game.

There are numerous examples of telcos buddying-up, for most cases with telcos outside of their commercial jurisdiction, to jointly develop services for 5G epoch. As it stands, 5G is nothing more than a ‘bigger, badder, faster’ version of 4G, though if the financial promises are to be realised differentiation is needed. For most, this means venturing into the murky world of enterprise services.

Last month, SK Telecom and Deutsche Telekom announced a partnership which would develop various technologies to improve indoor coverage and explore low-latency media services. A long-standing partnership between DT and Orange has led to the emergence of Djingo, a smart-assistant to challenge the dominance of the OTTs in the smart home.

Coopetition might sound like a buzzword fit for boardrooms of coffee drinkers and overpaid management consultants, but it is a trend which is slowly emerging in the telco world. And in some cases, it might just be the perfect solution to drive towards the long-overdue profits.

SK Telecom and Deutsche Telekom buddy up for 5G

Collaboration is one of the key works currently floating around the 5G world and it seems SK Telecom and Deutsche Telekom haven’t missed the memo.

At a meeting attended by roughly 100 executives, the two operators announced a partnership with the ambition of seeking the promised revenues in the 5G epoch. As it stands, 5G is nothing new. It’s bigger, badder and faster than 4G, but that is not going to satisfy the financial demands of the telcos who need to invest so heavily in the future-proofed networks. The joint venture company created as a result of this partnership will be first tasked with developing new 5G technologies.

Initial focus will be to develop 5G repeater and a 5G in-building solution, as well as a Multipath UDP solution to manage accesses for a seamless connectivity experience and MPEG Media Transport (MMT) technology for low latency media streaming.

“Through partnerships with companies throughout the world, SK Telecom aims to expand beyond the realm of mobile communications to become a global ICT company,” said Park Jung-ho, CEO of SK Telecom. “And I expect this, in turn, will lead to the revaluation of assets and competitiveness of SK Telecom.”

“DT/SK Telecom partnership continues to be of strategic importance for both DT and SK Telecom.” Said Timotheus Höttges, CEO of DT. “We want to work together to make tangible result and strengthen our partnership also with closer technical cooperation.”

This sort of joint investment should not perhaps come as the biggest of surprises considering the pair signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) at the Mobile World Congress Barcelona 2019. There is also the fact Alex Jinsung Choi, DT’s SVP of Research and Technology Innovation, was formerly the CTO at the Korean telco.

As part of the agreement, SK Telecom will also contribute $30 million to DTCP, an investment management group with $1.7 billion assets under management and advisory from Deutsche Telekom. The group is tasked with seeking new investment opportunities in technology, media and telecommunication sectors across Europe, the US and Israel. Moving forward, DTCP will open an office in Seoul to identify new opportunities with SK in Asia.

Looking at the greater opportunities for telcos in the 5G era, this could work out to be a very useful partnership for DT. Offering more products and extracting more revenue from enterprise customers is seem as a key objective, and the Asian telcos have progressed further here. Conversations with the verticals have been in play for longer periods of time and these telcos are closer to creating specific products for specific verticals. DT could certainly learn a thing or two.

Syniverse says Tata to the IPX blues

Syniverse and Tata Communications have decided to pool their IPX network interconnection resources in a bid to improve the whole process for their customers.

Apparently the way Internet Protocol traffic is exchanged between IPX providers is just far too opaque for some operator’s tastes and this new strategic partnership is designed to address that pain-point. Collectively they will offer what they claim is the first fully-managed, end-to-end IPX network interconnection partnership, which makes you wonder why nobody has tried this before.

Syniverse is based in the US, while Tata is Indian, so they’re going for a global IP traffic play. The pitch to customers is that they get enhanced visibility and control of their data throughout its journey, so long as that takes place between the two companies’ IPX networks. That seems to leave a bit of a hole in Europe, but maybe other companies will join the party if it goes well.

“Our customers gain the added value of improved performance, quality and route diversity, while also gaining access to our underlying capabilities that are supporting 5G and IoT,” said Dean Douglas, CEO of Syniverse. “Our partnership essentially offers the market a single way to access direct reach offered by two distinct and georedundant IPX networks. It allows our customers to work with one company while gaining the benefits of each company’s strengths.”

“By joining forces with Syniverse, we’re one step closer to our goal of creating an environment where everything and everyone can become seamlessly connected, anywhere in the world,” said Anthony Bartolo, Chief Product Officer of Tata Communications. “As our customers leverage next-generation IoT and mobility services to drive their digital transformation, they need a solid foundation to ensure that they are able to capture, move and manage information seamlessly and securely worldwide.”

IPX is a big thing for the GSMA, which has been championing it as a more reliable way of moving data around for over a decade. CTO Alex Sinclair has been involved from the start and his enthusiasm is undiminished by the passage of time. “Reliable, high-performance and secure IPX networks will connect mobile operators and vertical industries together driving efficiencies, productivity and innovative new services,” he insisted.

Ericsson and Intel partner for 5G cloud platform

Ericsson and Intel have announced a new partnership which is aimed at aligning the Swedes efforts for software-defined infrastructure with Intel’s Rack Scale Design.

The resulting hardware management platform will be designed for telcos targeting 5G, NFV, and distributed cloud. In theory, the pair aims to create a common managed hardware pool for all workloads that dynamically scales. It’s the scalable and affordable dream telcos have been promised for years.

The duo has said the new tie-up will allow telcos to take advantage of multi-vendor hardware options, Ericsson’s end-to-end software solutions, and Intel’s latest architectural solutions.

“We have long history of successful collaboration with Intel. Lars Mårtensson, Head of Cloud & NFV infrastructure for Digital Services at Ericsson. “This new collaboration will focus on software in addition to hardware and we see it to be truly transformative for service providers’ ability to successfully deploy open cloud and NFV infrastructure, from centralized data-centres to the edge. Intel’s and Ericsson’s joint efforts significantly strengthens the competitiveness and roadmap of the Ericsson Software Defined Infrastructure offering.”

“5G will be transformative, accelerating today’s applications and triggering a wave of new usages and edge-based innovation,” said Sandra Rivera, SVP of the Network Platform Group at Intel. “Our infrastructure manageability collaboration with Ericsson will help communications service providers remove deployment barriers, reduce costs, and deliver new 5G and edge services with cloudlike speed on a flexible, programmable and intelligent network.”

As part of the tie up, the Ericsson SDI Manager software and Intel RSD reference software will be converged, though the pair reiterated full backward compatibility would be maintained for existing customers. Any new solutions developed moving forwards will be subsequent Ericsson hardware platforms, as well as Intel’s server products which are sold through third-parties and in other industry segments.

Vodafone bags Big Blue as $550 million partner

Vodafone Business and IBM have signed-off on a new joint venture which will aim to develop systems to help data and applications flow freely around an organization.

The joint-venture, which will be operational in the first half of 2019, will aim to bring together the expertise of both the parties to solve one of the industry’s biggest challenges; multi-cloud interoperability and the removal of organizational siloes. On one side of the coin you have IBM’s cloud know-how while Vodafone will bring the IoT, 5G and edge computing smarts. A match made in digital transformational heaven.

“IBM has built industry-leading hybrid cloud, AI and security capabilities underpinned by deep industry expertise,” said IBM CEO Ginni Rometty. “Together, IBM and Vodafone will use the power of the hybrid cloud to securely integrate critical business applications, driving business innovation – from agriculture to next-generation retail.”

“Vodafone has successfully established its cloud business to help our customers succeed in a digital world,” said Vodafone CEO Nick Read. “This strategic venture with IBM allows us to focus on our strengths in fixed and mobile technologies, whilst leveraging IBM’s expertise in multi-cloud, AI and services. Through this new venture we’ll accelerate our growth and deepen engagement with our customers while driving radical simplification and efficiency in our business.”

The issue which many organizations are facing today, according to Vodafone, is the complexity of the digital business model. On average, 70% of organizations are operating in as many as 15 different cloud environments, leaning on the individuals USPs of each, but marrying these environments is a complex, but not new, issue.

Back in September, we had the chance to speak to Sachin Sony of Equinix about the emerging Data Transfer Project, an initiative to create interoperability and commonalities between the different cloud environments. The project is currently working to build a common framework with open-source code that can connect any two online service providers, enabling a seamless, direct, user-initiated portability of data between the two platforms This seems to be the same idea which the new IBM/Vodafone partnership is looking to tackle.

With this new joint-venture it’ll be interesting to figure out whether the team can build a proposition which will be any good. Vodafone has promised the new business will operate with a ‘start-up’ mentality, whatever that means when you take away the PR stench, under one roof. Hopefully the walk will be far enough away from each of the parent companies’ offices to ensure the neutral ground can foster genuine innovation.

This is a partnership which has potential. The pair have identified a genuine issue in the industry and are not attempting to solve it alone. Many people will bemoan the number of partnerships in the segment which seem to be nothing more than a feeble attempt to score PR points, but this is an example where expertise is being married to split the spoils.

iChief’s Samsung tie up is long overdue

The first (proper) week in January always promises a deluge of stories from CES and one opening gambit is a content-based partnership between Samsung and Apple, which should probably have happened much sooner.

Beginning in the Spring, new Samsung Smart TV models will offer iTunes Movies & TV Shows and Apple AirPlay 2 support for Apple customers, while 2018 models will also be made compatible via firmware update. iCultists with Samsung TVs can access their existing iTunes library and browse the iTunes Store to buy or rent new content, while Apple content will also work with Samsung’s Smart TV Services, such as Universal Guide, Bixby and Search.

The iTunes Movies & TV Shows app will feature on Samsung Smart TVs in more than 100 countries, while AirPlay 2 support will be available on Samsung Smart TVs in 190 countries.

On the surface this could be a very positive partnership for Apple and Samsung, both of whom have struggled to make a significant impact when searching for diversified revenues.

“Fascinating move as both companies have struggled to make strides in services,” said independent tech and telco analyst Paolo Pescatore. “Arguably it is a smart strategic move for both companies which underlines the need for companies to work more closely together. Samsung has made numerous failed moved in video services while Apple is still seeking to crack the TV landscape.”

Looking at Apple to begin with, this is a move which should have perhaps happened a while back. Stagnation trends in the devices and hardware segments will not have surprised anyone in the Apple business, this is the reason why CEO Tim Cook has been emphasising gains in the software and services business units so proudly, but it is now abundantly clear the ‘us versus everyone else’ mentality which made Apple great will not work outside its traditional stomping ground.

Apple has seemingly long-defied trends in the technology world by swimming against the ‘open’ euphoria. This mentality dates back to its stubborn but brilliant founder Steve Jobs, who constantly resisted the idea of openness, instead tightly integrated Apple within Apple, creating a closed ecosystem which forces iLifers to buy more Apple products. Back during a 2010 earnings call, Jobs stated “open systems don’t always win”.

When Apple was creating wonderful products, with each new release offering a brilliant new feature, this was enough to ensure the loyalty of customers despite the closed nature of the Apple business. However, innovation in the hardware segment has stalled and the closed mentality does not work in the software and services world. What some proof? Have a look at the profit warning last week.

The profit warning was the first one released by Apple in 15 years, and despite progress being made in the software and services segment, the gains could not compensate for the downturn. Although Cook pointed the finger of blame at a slowing Chinese economy, the team could not convince enough consumers to buy the ludicrously priced flagship devices in other territories either. This is a wider trend in the hardware segment, consumers are extending the lifecycle of current devices, while some are leaning towards second-hand models, but the software and services unit could not fill the $5 billion hole created.

To make the content business work, Apple will have to become a more open company, adopting the culture which it has resisted for so many years, and in Samsung it has an interesting partner.

In Samsung, Apple has found something which its own smart TVs cannot deliver; scale. According to market research firm NPD, Samsung is the leader in the US premium smart TV market (August report), holding 34% market share. Considering just over 43% of Apple’s revenue comes from the Americas, this is potential a very positive catapult to secure additional services revenues from customers. And this is before we’ve even started talking about the other territories.

Samsung is another business which has struggled to make headway with alternative revenue streams, though its prominent position in the premium home electronics space offers an excellent opportunity for the aggregator business model. When looking for new money each business has to decide where it can add value to the ecosystem; sometimes it is offering new products in parallel segments, but occasionally it means helping other businesses achieve their ambitions. Embracing openness could be an excellent move here.

If Apple wants to make any meaningful impact on the software and services industry, it will have to move away from the closed mentality which brought it success in the Jobs era and embrace the idea of collaboration. It will certainly be difficult to redirect such a massive supertanker, but one thing is clear; the faltering hardware segment, as it currently stands, will not support Apple’s indulgent ambitions.

Sky convinces Netflix to do the thinkable: move titles off its platform

Having initially announced a tie-up earlier this year, Sky has somehow managed to convince Netflix to loosen the grip on customer experience, integrating its biggest titles into a very chunky on-demand package.

As part of the partnership, Netflix content will be hosted on the Sky platform, allowing customers to access a huge number of on-demand titles without having to navigate between different streaming apps. Having to navigate through different windows to find the right content can be a frustration for consumers which Sky is certainly addressing, though it does seem to contradict the Netflix ambition to standardise customer experience across all platforms and partnerships.

Across one page users will be able to navigate through Sky’s content such as Patrick Melrose and Tin Star, HBO’s Game of Thrones, Showtime’s Billions and now, Netflix titles such as The Crown, Stranger Things, The Kissing Booth, Making a Murderer and Queer Eye. It’s a lot of quality content for one place, cementing Sky’s position as the UK’s king of content.

“Sky wants to position itself as an aggregator of services as underlined by recent tie-ups, bringing services together is to be offer users a seamless and integrated service experience,” said independent telco and tech analyst Paolo Pescatore. “Therefore, the move further increases Sky’s own value as a one stop shop provider. More importantly it will also get access to Netflix’s catalogue and metadata which will prove more attractive to Disney.”

“Europe lags the US when it comes to cord cutting due to numerous reasons. Among other things the pay TV penetration is a lot lower in Europe and has been dominated by a handful of players. However, both regions are seeing huge growth in binge watching driven by changing user behaviour towards on demand programming.”

The mega on-demand deal will cost £10 a month, alongside a Sky Q subscription, with a 31-day rolling contract available as an option. It might be more expensive than a normal Netflix subscription, but with Sky’s box set content available for £5 a month, professional bingers will be able to save money combining the pair.

Sky Netflix

While this is a massive coup for Sky, it is a strange turn of events for Netflix. Last week at IBC 2018, Maria Ferreras, VP of EMEA Business Development at Netflix, stated that while the business was open to partnerships the experience would remain consistent across all platforms and partnerships. In allowing Sky to host its programming on its own content platform, Netflix has essentially handed over the management of customer experience. It’s an interesting announcement with Ferreras insisting maintaining a high-quality and standardized experience across all platforms was critically important for the business.

That said, another ambition of the business is to make its content as accessible as possible. Improving accessibility is one aspect of the strategy to secure additional subscriptions as the growth rate looks like it is beginning to wobble. Perhaps this is simply a compromise. As growth momentum slows executives have to make difficult decisions, some of which they will not like, and maybe this is one. The drive for new subscriptions seems to outweigh owning the customer experience.

Now before anyone gets too excited about this being a possibility for every content platform, this will probably not be the case. Ferreras highlighted last week that each partnership is weighed on its own individual merit. There are frameworks in place to guide the parameters of each relationship, though the end product will entirely depend on who is sitting on the opposite side of the table.

Taking this an example, Netflix might have been happy to hand over the customer experience management because Sky has an excellent content platform which it has spent years honing; it is a solid experience with content easy to find. Others cannot say the same, take Virgin Media for example. We cannot imagine Netflix would allow a similar integration of content due to the cumbersome nature of the TV offering.

The search for new subscriptions will certainly take Netflix into some interesting partnerships. After the last quarter’s results, were subscription growth looked to stagger, there might be more pressure for executives to loosen the stranglehold on the platform, and be more flexible when it is discussing partnerships. Netflix still has the upper-hand when it comes to negotiations, though if it wants to maintain its lofty market cap ($152 billion!!!) it will have to be more pliable. Offering more access to its valuable customer data and behaviour insight could be one of those areas.

UK eyes Africa for technology conquests

Millions across the continent are shaking in fear, not in anticipation of a technology-orientated wave of colonialism, but in anticipation of UK Prime Minister Theresa May dancing in celebration.

Following an announcement from the Department for International Trade which outlined future trade relationships between the UK and various African nations, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport is weighing in on the African expansion. New partnerships in South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria will include dedicated teams to boost innovation in technology and research, an accelerator programme to help grow African start-ups, and entrepreneurship schemes.

“Nigeria, South Africa and Kenya’s technology sectors are growing rapidly and generating a significant part of their economic output. This means huge opportunities for UK businesses and for future partnerships,” said Digital Secretary Jeremy Wright. “New ideas, game-changing research and cutting-edge science are good news for our African partners and good news for the UK’s world-leading scientists, technologists and researchers who are representing the country on a global stage.”

As part of the new relationship, UK entrepreneurs will work alongside business men and women in Africa to develop new ideas in next generation technologies. Aside from charitably sharing their own expertise, the engagements will open up new opportunities in largely untapped markets. While African nations are playing catch-up, technology is making a more significant impact on society, with the sector accounting for 10% and 11% of the Nigerian and Kenyan economies respectively.

“Africa’s economy is projected to grow by 3.2% in 2018 and to a further 3.5% in 2019, according to the latest 2018 World Bank report,” said Julian David, CEO of techUK. “Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa represent a significant part of that growth with technology increasingly underpinning these numbers. The decision to set up Innovation Partnerships and extend the tech hub network to these African nations shows the Government clearly recognises this opportunity.”

Aside from creating new revenue opportunities, UK tech enthusiasts also might learn a thing or two when it comes to mobile money. While digital payments are a comparatively new craze in the UK, there are much more established markets across Africa. Today more than half Kenya’s daily GDP goes through mobile money, with mobile-phone based money transfer service MPesa one of the most popular.

The news might be worth rejoicing about, but we are all hoping our PM is excited enough to break out her own version of ‘dancing’.

 

Three looks to complimentary brands to focus on retention

Three has announced the launch of a new two-year partnership with EasyJet to build out its loyalty programme for customers.

As part of the agreement, Three customers will be able to check in hand luggage for free, while also taking advantage of priority boarding amongst other benefits including a free tote bag for carry-on essentials. This partnership is the latest to buffer the Three customer experience strategy which also includes tie-ups with Snapchat.

The partnership could said to be based on O2’s Priority engagement strategy, which has been incredibly successful over the years. It also demonstrates a different mentality to what we are used to when it comes to telcos; reward current customers with incentives, as opposed to simply focusing on bolstering subscriber numbers.

The loyalty app itself, Wuntu, now has 1.1 million active users, up from 350,000 over the last twelve months, and features 400 partners. Over the course of the first six months of 2018, there was a total of 1.5 million offer redemptions from customers, up from 400,000 in the same period of 2017. Partners include the likes of Hotel Chocolat, Dominos and Belle Italia, though EasyJet could arguably be described as one of the more significant wins.

“The EasyJet partnership gives us a big chance to influence our customer’s experience in the airport,” said Three CEO Dave Dyson. “It’s a company which has a very like-minded audience, and is a chance to bring extra value to customers.”

For the moment, the scope of the partnership is limited, but there are two years to play around with new ideas; Dyson said to expect a variety of new offers. Snapchat is another example of a partnership which could work out very well for the business. In both examples, Three has identified brands with similar audiences and identified a pain-point to address; queues in the airport and data consumption with Snapchat users. These are two examples of a company pragmatically identifying how it can add value to the experience, without making risky plays through diversification.

Like O2’s Priority initiative, Three is playing a low risk game. The value is being presented to the customer, though it is an option. Some telcos have gone down the content route to enhance the experience, but this could prove to be expensive (just ask Gavin Patterson). By offering other brands access to its subscriber base, and in return gaining exclusive offers for customers, it is a win-win situation.

The idea of brands audience sharing is not new, but it is extremely effective. By asking customers to download an app, its less intrusive than the traditional means of spamming, and opens up a huge number of opportunities. More importantly, Three is looking inwards, caring for the customers it has, not simply reserving attractive offers for new customers; this is an excellent way to isolate a current customer and destroy a relationship.

There are of course numerous studies online which argue the point of customer retention versus acquisition, with some claiming acquiring new customers can be five times more expensive than retention. Caring for a customer, creating a relationship which makes them feel valued, is also an excellent way to increase revenues in other areas of the business. Just look at the brand and loyal customer which Apple has created over the years; many of these iLifers would choose to purchase Apple products over others irrelevant whether there are better or cheaper options.

Loyalty programmes are not uncommon, but many seem to be slap-dash and only present because it seems to be the right thing to do. That said, we get the impression Three has seen the light and might start treating current customers with the attention they deserve.