Simon Davies is a leading MVNO consultant working at Acqua Telecom. Having worked in the industry for years and specialising in Product Marketing, Sales Management and PreSales, the MVNOs Series caught up with him for a quick Q&A to find out what his predictions were for MVNOs over the coming years.
What are the new/key disruptive technologies shaping the MVNOs industry in the APAC region?
In the short term, I see eSIM technology having a significant impact, both on MVNOs and on the end user:
From the MVNO’s standpoint, eSIM have both financial and logistical advantages. Talking financials, MVNOs can dramatically reduce their expenditure when they shift to the eSIM because the virtual nature of it allows them to curb the stocking and distribution costs associated with traditional, physical SIM cards. Equally noteworthy, eSIMs eliminate the burdensome manufacturing delays that usually come with new SIM batches. For those MVNOs that are involved with ‘low stickiness’ customers, this should have a significant benefit; less so for the MVNOs that have a more long-term clientele. The former includes SIMs aimed at travellers as well as the more classic ‘throw-away’ style SIMs.
From the viewpoint of the end user, their benefits are more straightforward: eSIMs equal an easier user experience by removing the physical SIM and replacing it with a virtual one, consumers no longer need to concern themselves with the often-difficult process of extracting and inserting the SIM into their mobile devices – no more scouring the house for paperclips or safety pins! . This is especially relevant to consumers that want to replace their main SIM with a temporary one for short-term use, a situation in which there is often an ongoing risk of losing their main SIM. Of course, this doesn’t apply to dual-SIM phones.
Moving onto the mid-term there is no doubt that 5G has to be the main focus. It is certainly the most talked about disruptive technology across the globe, and it promises ample opportunities both for MNOs and MVNOs (even if the killer applications have not really appeared yet).
The 5G applications that do look like opportunities – online gaming and interactive video, as well as industrial M2M – are probably already covered by the MVNOs and MNOs and the process is iterative rather than a step change. Nonetheless, nobody can ignore this game-changing technology poised to offer the most striking opportunities in the last few years.
What are your predictions and expectations for 5G launch and roll-out?
Overall, I expect that we will experience a situation like that of the arrival of 4G, in that the operators will attempt to ring-fence the new technology for their own use for as long as possible.
However, there will also be differences: two to be exact. The first difference I predict, is a much faster adoption of 5G use by MVNOs compared to 4G. Unlike its predecessor, the change cycles are getting much shorter and the commercial pressures are greater where 5G is concern. And this, in turn, I see pushing MNOs towards allowing 5G use by MVNOs at a much quicker rate.
Secondly, the range of use cases for 5G are far greater than when 4G first arrived, which means that a true niche market the Holy Grail for an MVNO – is much more likely to be available. This is especially true with the newer generations of MVNOs that are more a vehicle for semi privately accessing MNO networks than the classic consumer focused MVNOs.
In my view, this will be the same for markets worldwide: the timing will be the significant differentiator.
What are some key growth drivers in the APAC MVNO industry?
A key driver of growth in the region would definitely be technological changes and advancements, with particular emphasis on eSIM and 5G . They are driving growth by offering MVNOs (as well as others in the food chain) the opportunity to, on the one hand, reduce their own costs and offer a better, simpler user experience and, on the other hand, to take advantage of exploring new niche use cases and business verticals. MVNOs can profit from a changing environment. Changes in the regulatory environment for MVNO operations have also proven to encourage growth. One need only look at the relatively recent changes in India’s regulatory environment, which are starting to bear fruit in the way of operational MVNOs). In India, active permission to operate MVNOs coupled with a willingness by the MNOs to support them is starting to change the scene, and there is hope that other countries in the region may follow suit. Namely, countries like Pakistan where MVNO regulations have existed for many years, but neither the intent of the regulation or the mindset of the industry has allowed commercial operations to start.
What role will IoT play in shaping the APAC MVNO industry?
Where do I begin? We are seeing more and more MVNOs, as mentioned above, that are quasi-private deployments that need commercial and technical interfaces to the MNO but are distanced from any consumer business. These are the models that are being used to supply IoT connectivity today in areas such as vehicle data communications (cf Cubic Telecom supplying the VAG group) and elsewhere.
The difference with IoT is that the consumer model that uses the amount of data transmitted and the number of active SIMs has long been proven to be inappropriate for IoT and a “supplied services” model has taken over in this area. This is less easy (difficult, even) to reconcile with consumer models when the MVNO is moving across to this part of the business but I am sure that it will be taken on more and more.
The other aspect to focus on with IoT for MVNOs is the shift in the general dynamics for a successful MVNO. From a European viewpoint, 10 years ago an MVNO which had 20,000 active users was considered to be well placed and successful. As the market has changed and consolidated and MNO sub-brands have arrived, a successful MVNO now needs to have 50-100k active users to survive. Thus, the bar has shifted for consumer focused MVNOs who are now looking elsewhere to see where they can operate and the obvious target is the IoT market.
In your upcoming talk at MVNOs Asia, you will be discussing the relationship between IoT and MVNOs. What is the impact of IoT on MVNOs and what steps are MVNOs taking to make sure they succeed in the IoT space?
If I talk in terms of what steps they are – or should be – taking, I think they should be looking very closely at the IoT ecosystem and deciding in which areas they could and should take part.
By this I mean that the IoT space has a number of dedicated parts ranging from the IoT application and device management all the way through to the network supplier. MVNOs can clearly play in this space but need to decide whether it is sensible to try and operate in other parts where there are well established specialists such as the device management space. Choosing which parts to play in for both commercial gain and to be seen to supply a complete (enough) package is key to breaking into this sector (IMO!).