Are the days of the full MVNO numbered?

Telecoms.com periodically invites third parties to share their views on the industry’s most pressing issues. In this piece, Darren King, Head of Business Development for Three’s wholesale division, assesses the future for MVNOs.

For as long as there have been MVNOs there has always been the received wisdom that a full MVNO was the best strategy to adopt. Having full control of your brand, the marketing and the technology is of great comfort when you are launching a new operator to market.

There are numerous examples that have stood the test of time. There are also the brands that have stretched out into countries all over the world, think Lycamobile for example.

One of the biggest reasons for going full MVNO has been the ability to switch wholesale partner easily to chase better commercials. However, the rate of change in our industry, particularly technological change, is bringing the tried and tested concepts into review.

That’s because to keep meeting customer expectations, you have to invest in the core network. It’s an expensive business, and it’s becoming even more expensive as the time between cycles of improvements shorten. There is no way of competing with the incumbents without a technology roadmap that keeps relative parity. It’s catch 22. If you want to keep growing your customer numbers and reduce churn you have to keep up the investment.

And that’s before we mention the challenges of managing, maintaining and improving UX.  One of the biggest challenges is getting the right settings onto handsets as the model has changed so much over the years. Traditionally all the settings needed to use a mobile service were stored in the SIM.  This is no longer the case, and there’s increasing reliance on settings being pre-populated in direct and market sourced devices across the board. This means that services like VoLTE, which make propositions stand out, can be difficult to deliver to customers.

There’s also something we refer to as the ‘blacklog’ conundrum.  As more consumers opt for SIMO and bring your own device, it becomes more complicated to get them access to newer services unless the MVNO can get retrospective updates. There are a heck of a lot of handsets out there so it’s no mean feat to pull it off!

Added to this, there’s the expectation to have a roaming proposition. This too is hurting MVNOs as they seek out roaming agreements and strike deals on interconnect charges. It requires full-time management and very often some form of partner hub to give you the scale that will sway customers to your brand and give commercially viable pricing.

There is no escaping the investment required. It’s brought into focus when you read the analyst firm Enders’ opinion on the Sky Full MVNO, which states the broadcaster will need around 3 million subscribers to break even in today’s climate.

It’s very easy to see why MVNOs and high street brands considering becoming an MVNO are saying ‘there has to be another way’.

And there is. We are now seeing MVNOs launch without these overheads and operational commitments. Instead, in our case, they are using a telecoms as a service model whereby the core network, billing and customer management tools, fraud detection, web front ends, existing roaming agreements, and the technology for proposition design and development of the operator are used lock stock, and the brand adds its sales and marketing expertise over the top.

In the case of our model, even the hardware challenges are reduced as the MVNO benefits from pre-populated settings that support MVNOs using a Three network profile. This means customers can use the devices straight away with no fuss.

It’s simplifying the MVNO model beyond recognition. In fact, in some ways you could argue it’s really bringing the word virtual to life in the phrase MVNO.

This radical partnership approach to MVNOs is shaking things up and allowing brands that have previously dismissed an MVNO to have a go with far more confidence than they otherwise would have. Superdrug is a perfect example. It’s used its loyalty card and understanding of its customers to develop a proposition that customers want and launched Superdrug Mobile at significantly lower risk and with extraordinary results.

It’s this success that leads me to predict that we’ll see and hear a lot more of the telecoms as a service model in the coming year, and in particular at MVNO World Congress. I’m certain it will be the early adopters of this model that will not only succeed in their launch market but outperform past records. For any brand considering how it will survive tough trading conditions, this has to be a very attractive way ahead.

Darren KingDarren King, Head of Business Development for Three’s wholesale division. Darren is responsible for new Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO), wholesale, and Internet of Things (IOT) commercial partnerships. Experienced at seeking new partnerships, whether through traditional MVNO’s or through White Label partnerships with the overall aim of doubling Three Wholesale’s customer base and revenue year on year to 2021.

Three Denmark pushes carrier billing as value add

Cutting through the competitive chaos can be a difficult task, and while Three UK is focusing on convergence and broadband, Three Denmark is making a play to manage the consumers wallet.

With mobile services becoming increasingly utilitised the telcos need to search for a new way to stay relevant and add value to the consumer. Some are diversifying into alternative connectivity services or content, but other are broadening their wings outside the traditional realms of telecommunications.

“It can be difficult to keep track of how many different small amounts you are allowed to spend on apps, movies and games – or how much you get used during a month,” said David Elsass of Three Denmark. “Therefore, many of our customers, both with and without children, have sought greater overview.”

Many telcos have created a very unique position of trust with the consumer. Some might begrudgingly plug credit card details into the Google or Amazon matrix, but almost every consumer trusts their telco to manage their financial details effectively. With more services becoming online-first, or at-least digitally-orientated, a telco can bridge the gap in trust, allowing sceptical consumers to interact with the digital economy.

This is the niche which Three Denmark is looking to fill. Through 3Payment, customers will be able to pool all Apple, Google and Microsoft purchases into their phone bill, streamlining the increasingly fragmented digital economy.

According to a report from DIBS Payment Services, the Danes spent over 20 Danish Krone (roughly £2.3 billion) on online services and subscriptions. As many of these providers are making it so easy to purchase services, keeping track of total spend can be a complicated process. The 3Payment will not only streamline these payments into a single point, but also give the user the option to limit spending.

Three is not necessarily following the status quo in creating additional value to customers, but this is a very interesting approach. Unless the telcos offer something different to consumers, there is a very real risk of walking the path to utilitisation.

One of the main reasons we like this initiative is Three is attempting to add value to the ecosystem in an emerging segment, leaning on one of its attributes. This isn’t an example of a telco attempting to muscle into a competitive segment which is dominated by traditional players which have very different business models, like content, which we see as risky.

Three is leveraging a strength which it has, the trust relationship between it and the consumer, and tackling a pain-point in the digital economy. Simple, forward-looking and innovative.

Three UK readies assault on broadband market

While its latest financials might not look mind-blowing, Three UK is steading the ship as it casts its eye towards the promised land of convergence and 5G.

Convergence is not really much of a buzzword anymore, such is the accepted nature of the model across the telco industry, though Three is seemingly readying itself for a broader push into broadband segment. The first job is to rebrand Relish, which will happen next month, and the next box to tick will be 5G.

“We are well set up for some transformational shifts in 2019 for our customers and our employees,” said Three UK CEO Dave Dyson. “It will be a year when our customers will start to see the real benefits of the next generation of 5G “mobile” technology, a technology that will not only replace 4G, but will also replace the need for wired broadband services.”

With the new ‘Three Broadband’ branding and a 5G network launching in H2, the Three marketers will have plenty to talk about when attempting to add to the 800,000 broadband customers it already has. In terms of the current state of play, Three said 10% of its current customer base is already ‘converged’ but 5G offers an opportunity to accelerate growth in the broadband business.

The team feels it has an advantage over rivals with its 5G holdings, offering superfast broadband connectivity which is not reliant on fibre. Whether UK consumers are swayed by the Fixed Wireless Access promise remains to be seen.

Looking at the position of the business, it would be fair to describe the last twelve months as healthy without being particularly good. This might not sound the most positive, but the raw materials are certainly in place for Three to make some very strong strides forward.

Total revenues over the last 12 months rose 1% to £2.4 billion, while total network connections reached 11.3 million. 99% of new customers were brought in through Three’s own sales channels, churn is down to 1.1% and net promoter score has reached a new high of +15. Three might not have torn up many trees last year, but the foundations of the business are very healthy.

Looking forward, the team is in the testing stages for its fully-virtualized 5G-ready cloud core network, while there are now 21 data centres live on the network. The business has also signed an agreement with SSE to improve mobile backhaul and 3G spectrum is being continuously re-farmed for 4G. All these initiatives will incrementally improve the customer experience.

“Three is fully embracing a business transformation to take maximum advantage of the opportunities digital businesses enjoy,” said Dyson. “2018 was the year when we set the foundations in place for us to jump up to the next level and become the UK’s best-loved brand by our people and customers, meeting all our customers’ connectivity needs.”

This kind of feels like a ‘calm before the storm’ scenario. Once the broadband rebrand is finished and 5G launched, we feel there will be some very aggressive moves from Three, staying true to its data-orientated roots but heavily integrated convergence messages on-top.

Three UK’s guerrilla marketing strategy backfires

Challenger brands need to try harder to get noticed, but this approach can sometimes backfire, as Three UK found out this week.

Three is hoping to build on its #PhonesAreGood campaign, launched in October last year, that took a tongue-in-cheek look at all the negative press around smartphone addiction by imagining some historical scenarios that would have been changed for the better with the involvement of a smartphone.

One of those scenarios concerned King Henry the Eighth, who notoriously got through six wives by the time he called it a day. The joke is that if he’d had some kind of dating app at the time he might have been able to make up his mind about them prior to marriage and thus a couple of them could have been spared the chop.

In the build up to Valentine’s Day some bright spark in Three UK’s marketing department thought it might be a laugh to promote this part of the campaign with a tweet entitled ‘Shag, marry or behead’. This was presumably a nod to the ‘kiss, marry, kill’ game and maybe even the phrase used by history students to remember what happened to Henry’s wives: ‘Divorced, beheaded, died; Divorced beheaded survived’.

Now you don’t have to be the most committed social justice warrior to know that Twitter is not the place for nuance or humour and anything that can be taken offence to will be. While the tweet was clearly a joke, there was always the possibility that it could be perceived as some kind of trivialising or even endorsement of domestic violence by someone.

That someone was apparently mumsnet member Jeanhatchet, who flagged up the tweet on the site’s forum. “The 3 mobile network are laughing at domestic homicide in this tweet, Jeanhatchet wrote. “In many of the women killed as a result of intimate partner violence blunt force trauma to or being stabbed in the head is a feature.

“The most worrying thing is …. how did this marketing meeting go? What views were expressed about killing women? How that was funny and would sell more contracts and phones? Imagine those men who sanctioned this and how common their views are that it never registered as a marketing disaster? https://twitter.com/threeuk/status/1095740892919541761?s=21” Three seems to have taken down the offending tweet by here’s a screenshot of it courtesy of Jeanhatchet. Google is also still acknowledging the original tweet.

3 UK deleted tweet

 

3 UK deleted tweet Google

That was enough for the Manchester Evening News to get involved, which committed not one but two dogged hacks to the job of writing up this mumsnet post and the rest of the claimed ‘flurry of complaints’ around Three’s tweet. Even their combined efforts weren’t enough to ensure the faithful representation of the discussion thread they were copying-and-pasting, however, with one of Jeanhatchet’s early comments wrongly attributed to  Lolkittens5, to whom she was responding.

Hot on their heels was Labour MP James Frith, who apparently spent most of yesterday working himself up in to an impressive froth of righteous indignation. “This is a disgraceful ad,” he opened. “Misogynistic and violent towards women. The disgrace of it. I hope you’re fined big time for this with proceeds sent to women’s refuges. Utterly shameful @ThreeUK”

Three, of course, tried the standard ‘we are sorry for any offence caused’ defence but, as is nearly always the case, it was too little too late. Apparently emboldened by the 30 likes and four retweets his initial Twitter salvo received Frith doubled down, including the textbook move of calling for an apology and then rejecting it when it was made. He concluded by vowing to grass Three up to the ASA before wrapping up his busy day by retweeting a story about how great his constituency is.

Unperturbed Three announced a new marketing initiative today around London Fashion Week. It’s claiming to have launched the world’s first 5G mixed reality catwalk, It ‘uses innovative start up Rewind and its Magic Leap mixed reality technology alongside Three’s 5G network, which will see the designer’s inspirations come to life on the catwalk,’ according to the press release.

Somehow this involves the son of singer Liam Gallagher and actress Patsy Kensit, who is apparently a world-renowned model and, as you can see below, has inherited his father’s petulant resting face. Perhaps this is intended to distract from Three’s rather weak 5G claims, with vague talk of IoT and AR the only substantiation offered.

3 UK Lennon Gallagher

“Today we are turning up the volume on 5G and bringing it to life for the first time in the UK, right here in the heart of the fashion world,” said Shadi Halliwell, chief marketing officer at Three. “By giving students access to the next generation of mobile technology, they will be able to push the boundaries of learning, innovation and sustainability to create in a way that’s never been possible.”

Halliwell, who presumably signed-off on the problematic tweet, will be hoping this new initiative will be free from controversy, or maybe not. It’s possible that the tweet was made in the hope of a bit of viral exposure, but that seems unlikely when you consider how quickly it was deleted. One thing, at least, Three will have gained from the experience is the knowledge that guerrilla marketing is a very high-risk strategy these days.

Three UK and Ovum reckon 5G FWA is a great idea

Research from Ovum, commissioned by Three UK, has concluded 5G-powered fixed wireless access could replace fixed connections for most UK households.

The report, entitled 5G Wireless Home Broadband: A Credible Alternative to Fixed Broadband, was commissioned to assess the potential of 5G as a substitute to fixed wired broadband in the UK. The bandwidth promised by 5G rivals what is currently available to most UK households via traditional fixed lines and it doesn’t involve digging up the pavements, so what’s not to like?

In fact Ovum anticipates speeds of 80-100 Mbps from FWA, compared to the current fixed-line average of 46 Mbps. Furthermore Ovum reckons 85% of urban punters currently get less than 80 Mbps, so they would receive a boost from 5G FWA.

“Advantages of 5G wireless broadband technology are not just in speed: wireless is more flexible, does not require long-term contracts, is faster and cheaper to deploy and less of a burden for customers – no waiting time, no engineer visits,” said Dario Talmesio of Ovum, who wrote the report. “With low availability of fibre and high cost of deployment, 5G Wireless becomes a viable alternative to fixed-line broadband. While the UK continues its fibre roll-out, this is a quicker and more economical way to satisfy customers’ fast-growing demand for data.”

“5G gives consumers the opportunity to bin their fixed line, enjoy faster speeds and save money,” said Three UK CEO Dave Dyson. “Wireless home broadband means that we can speed up access to super-fast internet services at a lower cost, without installation delays or inflexible contracts.

“The efficient and widespread rollout of superfast broadband across households and businesses is crucial to the growth of our economy. Wireless home broadband de-risks government’s ambitions for a Digital Britain by providing alternatives to a fibre-to-the-home solution.”

Now it should be noted that Three UK doesn’t have a stake in the UK fixed line market and that it’s keen to show something for its £250 million acquisition of UK Broadband, part of the stated reason for which was to offer 5G FWA over the 3.4 GHz spectrum that came with it. Three expects to launch a UK FWA service sometime next year, so it’s fair to say it has a strong commercial interest in bigging up the potential of FWA.

Three UK talks up its 5G investment plans

The UK’s fourth MNO, Three, has given a public update on its investment priorities and plans for 5G.

The headline figure is £2 billion, which is what Three says it is committed to spend on 5G stuff. Apparently Three customers are more data-hungry than average, so it’s even more important that it drops enough cash to ensure its infrastructure can keep up. The intended message seems to be that Three is for real in the 5G era and the other UK MNOs had better watch their backs.

“We have always led on mobile data and 5G is another game-changer,” said Three CEO Dave Dyson. “Also described as wireless fibre, 5G delivers a huge increase in capacity together with ultra-low latency.  It opens up new possibilities in home broadband and industrial applications, as well as being able to support the rapid growth in mobile data usage.

“This is a major investment into the UK’s digital infrastructure. UK consumers have an insatiable appetite for data and 5G unlocks significant capability to meet that demand. We have been planning our approach to 5G for many years and we are well positioned to lead on this next generation of technology.  These investments are the latest in a series of important building blocks to deliver the best end to end data experience for our customers.”

Dyson also had some stuff to say on the matter of Huawei potentially getting a hard time from UK public bodies which you can read more about here. So where is all this wedge going to end up? Details are thin on the ground right now and it looks like the headline figure includes some investment already made. Three did offer the following highlights of its 5G investments so far.

  • Acquired the UK’s leading 5G spectrum portfolio
  • Signed an agreement for the rollout of new cell site technology to prepare major urban areas for the rollout of 5G devices, as well as enhance the 4G experience
  • Built a super high-capacity dark fibre network, which connects 20 new, energy efficient and highly secure data centres
  • Deployed a world-first – a 5G-ready, fully integrated cloud native core network in the new data centres, which at launch will have an initial capacity of 1.2TB/s, a three-fold increase from today’s capacity, and can scale further, cost effectively and quickly.
  • Rolled out carrier aggregation technology on 2,500 sites in busiest areas, improving speeds for customers

Q&A with Lynda Burton, Director of Wholesale at Three

With less than ten days until the MVNOs Europe 2018, the MVNOs Series spoke with Lynda Burton. Director of Wholesale at Three, Lynda owns MVNO, white-label partnerships, bulk messaging, carrier services and international roaming functions. In this interview, Lynda shares her predictions for 5G, its benefits to customers and partners, and the most exciting use cases. 

What are your predictions for 5G and what benefits will it bring to operators’ customers and partners?

We see the launch of 5G as a significant impact upon the market and one from which Three intend to get maximum advantage. We have more 5G spectrum than any other operator and with our plans for a fully virtualised network well advanced, we will be able to leverage all the benefits of 5G. Thanks to the rollout of 5G, our spectrum and new technologies like Massive MIMO, our network will be able to support almost thirty times the data that it does today – that means we can bring on more customers fully exploiting our wholesale business opportunities. It is really exciting for our team.  It also opens up new connected customer verticals, connecting people to people, people to things, and things to things in both business and consumer segments.

Can you also tell us a bit more regarding 5G use cases? Why MVNOs should be excited about it?

In the short term 5G is going to allow customers to do more of what they are doing now but much faster. In the consumer space this could mean a far superior low latency gaming experience and removing the need for fixed broadband – so few millennial customers value their fixed line, it is the natural progression for them to become a fully mobile connected household.
Longer term we see a significant opportunity in connectivity for business applications, whether that is connected health, car or other industries that need high bandwidth, low latency services, or the IOT applications where there are many millions of devices utilising the network.

Finally, our fully virtualised 5G network will allow “network slicing” effectively allocating portions of the network to a particular organisation or vertical. This is cutting edge stuff and the use cases are not fully defined yet, but because of the investments we have made in 5G we have the capability and can work internally and externally on how we bring it to market.

How are networks getting ready for 5G and how that includes MVNOs? i.e. Will operators ensure MVNOs have access to their wholesale 5G networks?

Operators across Europe are working on their 5G plans. At Three UK we have been planning meticulously for 5G for a long time. Our network and IT transformation, moving us to a completely new and fully virtualised core network, increasing the number of data centres, adding new mobile backhaul with SSE and redeveloping our IT systems, is progressing very well. When completed the core network we are building in partnership with Nokia will be a world first. Without this you cannot fully leverage all the capabilities of 5G. We have already secured more 5G spectrum than any other operator and this opens up a significant opportunity for us.

With regards to our MVNO partners, they are already briefed on our 5G strategy and we are continuing to update them. Historically Three UK has always offered our MVNOs network parity with Three Retail and this means that in the future MVNOs will be able to access 5G. We had the same approach to 4G access.  This was quite different to the approach of other operators who sought to retain premium services for their own retail customers, giving MVNO customers a more basic service – some of the larger MVNOs only gained access in the past two years. We don’t believe that holding new technologies back from our partners is a model that works. If we help them to grow, we’ll grow and that’s the model we will bring to 5G.

How can operators help their MVNOs to face the changing ecosystem? i.e. Are operators willing to reduce their wholesale rates if RLAH has a profound impact on their MVNOs’ businesses? Will operators be more flexible and work with MVNOs to negotiate their roaming deals?

That’s a lot of questions! Certainly at Three UK we have always had a flexible approach to working with our MVNOs, whether that is technical or commercial models. We believe that our success is driven from our MVNO’s success, so we are always open to having a dialogue if an MVNO needs our support, and that is on anything not just RLAH. We like to work out challenges together, we really do see our MVNO relationships as partnerships.

With regards to whether we would negotiate roaming deals on an MVNO’s behalf, we already offer a managed service on roaming for our MVNO lite customers, leveraging our roaming relationships with over 190 networks globally.

How do operators tackle the increased data demand from their customers?

Three’s own retail customers use more than 3x the average data consumption each month and our customers have recently voted us the best network for data. Delivering high speed and high bandwidth is our heritage – our network was designed for data.  All the projections have data demand growing exponentially over the next 5-10 years and 5G will help us manage that capacity in a cost-effective way.

What are your views on delivering a fully digital MVNOs? What do you consider the pros and cons of this model?

There a couple of ways that an MVNO could be considered fully digital, it could be that the MVNO can only be accessed via digital channels. So, customers buy online, access their account online and are served through online channels such as webchat. I definitely believe that for the right customer segments this is a model that really works. We only need to look at many of the other digital services like Netflix and Spotify to see that consumers are comfortable in buying service in a 100% digital channel, and I think it’s an area where we will continue to see growth. Obviously, there will be some segments of customers who prefer a face-to-face service, or the ability to call a call centre for help. In the short terms these customers are unlikely to want to migrate to a fully digital experience. But this is at the core of the MVNO ecosystem. MVNOs target different customers segments and offer them an experience which is differentiated from the mass market and serves that customer segment’s needs.

The second way an MVNO could be considered fully digital is if all the calls are handled through digital channels, in app calling, sometimes referred to as AppVNOs. Three offer a product that supports this model, our OTT virtual numbers. This allows organisations to set up a mobile calling experience within an App, for example if you wanted to have a mobile number in a dating app. It’s relatively early days for the product but we are seeing some interesting use cases and as always we are keen to exploit new technologies and ideas for our wholesale customers.

What are the best strategies when approaching customers via new channels? How can MNOs and MVNOs develop and implement their digital strategies better?

Accessing new customers through new and different channels is critical to the success of an MVNO partnership. Our recent partnership with Superdrug is a great example of this. The relationship enables Superdrug to add new benefits to customers within their loyalty scheme giving them a fantastic mobile offer and double loyalty points on all their spend in Superdrug.  For Three, we get to bring new and extremely loyal customers to our network through an entirely new channel.

In the Superdrug example we are using both retail and digital channels, all the joining journeys can be undertaken online, including setting up your SIM after buying it in a Superdrug store. The online account web pages and web help allows customers to service their account and get help through flexible and lower cost digital channels. Much of the infrastructure that supports this has been developed by Three as part of our white label platform, while Superdrug bring their outstanding understanding of their customers and how best to target and sell to them through stores and digital loyalty media. It’s an exciting proposition and opens up more opportunities for brands who may not have considered their loyalty scheme as a channel for telecoms services.

What are your views on network virtualization and its impact on operators?

I have already mentioned that virtualisation is crucial to fully leveraging the benefits of 5G but there are other enormous benefits that it will bring. It will allow us to be far more agile, delivering change in the network faster and ultimately allowing us to develop new products and services far faster than the competition, reacting to the ever-changing demands of our retail and wholesale customers. In short it will give us and our partners a significant competitive edge.

Automation is a key part of our network virtualisation story that will enable many activities that are manual today to be automated in the future, as well as providing instant self-healing capabilities improving network availability and reliability.

Hear from Lynda Burton at the MVNOs Europe 2018, taking place in London, 6 – 7 November 2018. Lynda will deliver a presentation on ‘Preparing for 5G – setting your MVNO up for 5G success’. Book your tickets now.

Three confirms job losses but says they’re nothing new

Three has responded to claims in the press regarding reported job losses; yes there will be a headcount reduction, but this is not something it has been hiding.

In an interview with the Press Association, CEO Dave Dyson confirmed there would be job losses as a result of a new technology platform being implemented, however this is not new. This is a project which has been underway for months, Three has been managing the process and has announced these cuts before.

Speaking to Telecoms.com, Three confirmed the job losses, roughly 300 positions in the IT department, though this is part of a greater automation and digital transformation project. This should not indicate there is a new efficiency programme.

“The changes will be phased over the next four years and we’ll be helping staff to find roles with our technology partners, in other parts of the Three business or outside Three where necessary,” the company has stated.

While it is never a positive job to talk about job losses, such developments should be taken with context. This is not a new initiative from Three, neither is it a particularly unique case across the industry. Numerous operators are reducing headcount as new technologies are implemented, old technologies are retired, processes streamlined and automation trends become more influential. Three has been named as the culprit in this example, but almost every operator is going through the same process, some with much more significant cuts.

Thanks to automation trends and the big squeeze on profit margins, operators are being forced to reduce exposure. Sometimes this does mean implementing new technology to replace a company’s  largest overhead; the workforce. According to data compiled by our sister site Light Reading, over the last two years, there has been a 6% drop in total jobs for the top 20 telcos in Europe and the America’s. AT&T and Deutsche Telekom are the top slashers, though America Movil isn’t too far behind.

In this example, cuts are coming, though it is a process which Three has been quite up-front about over the last couple of months. For those Three employees reading this, this isn’t another unpleasant surprise.

Don’t listen to the moaners, phones are great – Three

Three has launched a new marketing campaign designed to counter all the moaning about how bad phones are for you.

In a new campaign, simply named ‘Phones are Good’, the telco imagines how historical moments would have been different if smartphones had been around. From Henry VIII on Tinder, to the Titanic with GPS, it’s a bit of fun which indirectly encourages people to use the internet more, playing directly into Three’s USP.

“At a time when we are being told to get off our phones, Three’s customers are actually using them three and a half times more than other providers,” said Shadi Halliwell, Chief Marketing Officer at Three. “That’s because, unlike others, we understand how real people use their phones.

“And although we shouldn’t be on our phones 24/7, if it weren’t for our mobiles how would you find love lounging on the sofa? Buy new shoes while sitting on the toilet? Or get a chicken cooked, seasoned, garnished and delivered to your door at the drop of a hat? As the Best Network for Data, it is our duty to challenge the cynics, and help everyone see that Phones Are Good.”

As you can see from the video below, it’s a creative way to get Three’s message across, and quite entertaining.

While Three is suggesting all these wonderful ideas on how mobile phones could have changed the course of history, there is of course the other side of the coin…

  • If the Mesopotamians had used MyBuilder.com for its reviews of local tradesmen, their grain storage units would have never leaked and beer would not be a thing
  • The Spanish Armada of 1588 could have been successful in its mission to conquer England if Sir Francis Drake was taking numerous selfies for the perfect Instagram post instead of gazing onto the horizon
  • Had a clumsy Chinese chef been following a YouTube recipe he might not have dropped a natural coagulant called nigari into a pot of soybean milk and created Tofu
  • Juliet might never have fallen for Romeo had she done a bit of Facebook stalking beforehand (admittedly this didn’t really happen)
  • If Percy Spencer had been using a calorie counting app, he would have never had that chocolate bar in his pocket and invented the microwave
  • Finally, without the power of Twitter the US might have a logical and caring human being in charge…

Of course, the revolutionary impact of mobile devices, not just the smartphone, is countered with negatives. Instead of talking to that lonely women on the bus, we stare at cats playing the piano and or toddlers biting siblings fingers. But, we more connected to family members on the other side of the planet. There’s always rough with the smooth.

Ultimately Three is attempting to push the advantages of the internet and encourage more people to consume more data. As the telco which sells itself to the more digital-enthusiastic users, using the internet more benefits it. It sells itself on data volume more than anything else.

The idea of the smartphone contradicts all the lessons of politeness and paying attention which we were taught as children. Perhaps the next thing we should be worried about is virtual reality. Parents have been telling children all around the world sitting too close to a TV screen is bad for your eyes, yet VR places a screen inches in front of your face.

What is it with telcos and the ‘creative’ approach to advertising honesty?

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has once again had to step in to put a stop to telco advertising, this time Three’s efforts, posing a pretty simple question; why do the telcos find it so easy to put misleading adverts into the world?

The latest ruling was surrounding Three’s ‘Go Roam’ claim, which states users are able to ‘Feel at Home’ by using their full data allowance without any extra costs in 71 countries. An investigation from the ASA found postpaid users were limited to 13GB and postpaid to 12GB, before costs were applied. There is text hidden away somewhere on the Three website pointing towards a fair use clause, though the ASA does not believe this is sufficient and Three has been misleading customers.

Three’s response to the claims was relatively simple. Firstly, most of it customers only use 0.75GB per month in a ‘Go Roam’ destination, therefore 12GB was excessive. Secondly, that the claim had been used since 2014 and was strongly associated with their brand, which supposedly makes it alright. It does appear some customers were using it for business purposes, making several trips abroad per month, while the offer had originally been intended for holidays.

This is a perfectly respectable defence from Three, but without informing the customer of these conditions, it doesn’t have a leg to stand on. Unfortunately this is becoming a common trend. Service providers seem to think they can do what they like before pointing to some obscure reference on websites, incredibly small print or a statement made to an irrelevant number of people at a niche event. While Three might have been caught out in this instance, it is not alone.

BT had a complaint upheld regarding its claims on wifi speeds in April. Sky was caught misleading customers in March regarding a price promotion. Vodafone was caught out earlier this month and in September for misleading claims in adverts featuring Martin Freeman. There are other examples, plus the pending investigations with the ASA and also dozens of examples over the last few months of ‘informally resolved’ incidents. Vodafone has ‘informally resolved’ 12 of these complaints so far in 2018, TalkTalk seven and O2 five. Some of these will be down to honest mistakes, but the complaints seem to becoming more common.

Of course the other factor which needs to be taken into account is the ‘up to’ metric which plagued telcos advertisements for years, misleading customers over speeds which can be achieved. Any normal person would have told any of the telco’s marketing team this is not a fair or honest way to communicate with the consumer, but it become commonplace. It seems the telcos are harbouring different standards when it comes to honesty than the rest of us.