MVNO – Provide Exceptional Customer Experience

cheerful multiethnic women browsing smartphone in park
Photo by Charlotte May on Pexels.com

In early January this year, Toronto-based Data On Tap received CRTC approval for its carrier brand “dotmobile” to become Canada’s first full Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO).

From their press release on Jan 8 dotmobile notes the following

Generally speaking, a Full MVNO operates essentially the same technology as a mobile network operator, but without owning the radio access network (ie. cell towers). Instead, the Full MVNO’s core network connects to one or more existing radio access networks owned by other network operators, similar to how that same mobile network operator roams on other networks.

To better understand how similar they are, let’s look at the big three in Canada. They all provide nationwide coverage with their networks. The big guys do this by sharing their networks. For example, Bell and Telus each have cell towers that cover only half of the country, but they share them with each other so that their customers get national coverage. Each of them also operates multiple brands on their networks, which means Bell, Virgin, Lucky, Telus, Koodo, and Public Mobile all connect to the same network.

So since Full MVNOs operate a core network just like everyone else, and everyone else is already sharing networks, the difference really just boils down to whether you own any of your own towers or not.

A wireless provider’s core network is responsible for almost everything other than how many bars of signal your phone gets. It takes care of the basics like routing calls, text messages, voicemail, and connecting you to the internet. They can also do a lot more. Modern core networks that are built primarily as software can better prevent spam calls, seamlessly switch calls from a phone to a laptop and back again, support worldwide High Definition calling over Wi-Fi and LTE, or even integrate your AI assistant into a call. That’s just scratching the surface.

One of the key things that any new MVNO will need is the ability to terminate their customer’s international voice calls. Since all the calls originated on a cellphone are compressed by its codec, it is imperative that only premium quality voice routing be used to terminate the calls, especially when they are calling overseas. An MVNO wants the best-in-class solution to transport their calls over high quality routes with minimal trans-coding so that their customers receive the highest quality of experience.

We expect a decision from the CRTC in early 2021 to grant MVNOs in Canada mandated access to the networks of the big guys. When this access is granted we will see dotmobile and other carriers approved to become full MVNOs enter the Canadian mobile services marketplace. AurorA will be there to cheer them on and also to provide them with their premium quality international termination, as well as any other international telecom services that they may need.

Competition is good for consumers and Canadian businesses, especially when they can be provided with premium quality services. I look forward to the future that mandated MVNO access will bring to Canada.

Cellphone Competition Coming ?

Left is MNO Rogers – right is the MVNO Ting – from Twitter user YOZZO

Last week the CRTC finished up two weeks of hearings as a Review of Mobile Wireless Services. The subject of the 9 days of hearings were whether to mandate (ie force) the current mobile network operators (ie Bell/Telus/Rogers, Big 3, Goliaths) to provide wholesale MVNO (Mobile Virtual Network Operator) access to their networks to smaller carriers (ie Davids). In short to open the market up to competition.

There were many parties giving evidence and opinions. The Big 3 are very against being forced to sell access to their networks. Very against. They cite that the market is already competitive, that mandating MVNO’s would curtail their ability to spend on network expansion (both to rural/remote areas and upgrading to 5G). And they point to a submission from the Competition Bureau that pro-MVNO regulation would harm smaller facilities based competitors like Videotron, Shaw, Eastlink and Xplornet. Telus CEO Darren Entwistle even threatened to cut $1 billion in network investment, 5,000 jobs and philanthropic giving if CRTC dared to mandate MVNOs.

Telus threatens to euthanize animals if CRTC approves mobile virtual network operators – from The Beaverton

Is the Canadian mobile market really competitive ? The reason this procedure was even going on was due to the outcry from Canadians about their cellphones! It seems self evident that Canadians view the current situation as unfair and that the Big 3 are acting as an oligopoly. They hate their current providers (see here) This came up more than once in various submissions, including co-ordinated rate plans (one moves they all move), the smoke-screen of flanker brands to confuse the market etc.

There were other parties like TekSavvy, Distributel, Tucows, CNOC, Ice Wireless (Iristel) and others arguing in favour of MVNO’s. They argued that as Full MVNO’s they would not own spectrum or operate their own radio access network, but purchase that from the Big 3 . Except for the operation of such a radio access network, they would be responsible for all other aspects of their operations such as sales, marketing, billing and the operation of a core network. From there they could increase competition in the marketplace to provide more services to Canadian consumers and businesses.

Twitter commentary on competition from MVNOs being more than “resale” or a free ride

We won’t know the outcome from these hearings for a while, maybe not until 2021. I am watching this process carefully; not because AurorA plans to become an MVNO. Almost my entire 35 year career has been on the competitive side of the industry, competing against the various incarnations of the Big 3. And they are formidable competitors indeed who do not cede an inch of any markets that they consider as theirs. My rooting interest naturally falls to the underdogs, the Davids competing against Goliaths.

If MVNO’s are mandated though, it could also open up a raft of new mobile competitors . Those competitors would need premium quality termination for their overseas calls. Mobile calls originate on cellphones and already undergo compression just to reach the core; from there you want to ensure premium quality so that the caller gets through perfectly. An LCR here makes zero sense; if the caller wanted a cheap call they would use a free app on their phone like Skype or WhatsApp. If they use the phone it has to be high quality. And I know just who has the best quality international voice termination !

2020 Vision

Photo Credit ; Carmi Levy, @carmilevy more at http://writteninc.blogspot.com/

The world does not need another blog post about predictions or trends for the coming New Year. Or another Top 10 list. Those are far too common and overdone. For this years first blog post, I thought I would instead focus on a few topics that I see becoming of increasing importance, especially to service providers in the competitive space against Big Telco. You can read about 5G, AI, IoT and other acronyms elsewhere.

Telecom Fraud
The last few years have seen a dramatic increase in fraud on our networks. Hacking by criminal networks is easier than ever and they avoid prosecution by doing it across international borders. The migration to IP networks and softswitches have opened up new avenues fro the bad actors to attack. This trend shows no signs of abating, meaning that as an industry we must put more time, effort and manpower into safeguarding our networks and businesses to avoid catastrophic losses.

The Decline of Voice
Worldwide voice revenues continue to decline. We have highlighted this trend before here. Silicon Valley giants like Microsoft (Skype), Facebook (WhatsApp, Messenger), Apple (FaceTime) and Google have sucked away a lot of the consumer voice and messaging traffic from worldwide networks. As service providers we need to look for other sources of revenue rather than trying to compete for a slice of an ever shrinking pie.

This is where looking at other market sectors such as Enterprises and SMB for growth that are underserved or poorly served by Big Telco come into play. Or looking for markets like International MPLS data circuits or cloud connectivity where Big Telco does not have 90% market share. Finally, the best way to compete against “free” services is not to offer low cost service; rather it is to offer premium, high quality services that Silicon Valley and Big Telco are not equipped to provide. (more on quality here)

Recession is coming
We are now in one the longest, if not the longest, economic expansions in the history of the United States. History has shown that this cannot keep going indefinitely, a recession is coming soon. When the US gets a recession, Canada gets an even bigger one. As competitive service providers we must be prepared for this on two key fronts; expenses and top-line revenue.

Now is the time to tighten the screws on your organization from top to bottom. Examine all costs, especially all S,G & A line items to see where savings can be had. Billing systems, payment services, any form of overhead costs should all be examined and cost savings sought wherever possible.

Top-line revenue ? Here is a counter-intuitive tip from a veteran of many boom-bust cycles. Times of recession can often be times of the best top-line growth for companies like ours. During hard times, business customers are more receptive to moving away from their current providers to be able to save money. This is when they will look to competitive suppliers. So have your marketing and especially your front line sales staff prepared for this opportunity.

I hope these topics gave you few ideas for your business for the coming year. As always, Amitel and AurorA are here to help. Reach out to me to have deeper discussions on the above, or any other pain points you may be experiencing. Looking forward to growing together with you in 2020.

Your Friend in Telecom

Timo

Thanks again to Carmi Levy, @carmilevy for use of his superb photograph. Follow his work at http://writteninc.blogspot.com/

2019 Canadian ISP Summit – Day 4

Day 4 ? But the conference only ran from Nov 4 to 6 ? How could there be a Day 4 ?

Well when you are self-employed like I am it takes a full day AFTER the conference just to try to get caught up. There is the large backlog in the email inbox, phone calls to return, meetings to attend.

There is the followup from all the social media posts. I made the commitment to blog each day of the Summit, and really appreciate that you readers took the time to follow along on my website and left great comments on my Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter feeds.

Finally, there is the followup from the pile of business cards that I came home with. I will connect with you all on LinkedIn and Twitter, and send you some details on AurorA and Amitel to remind you that when you need something “International”, contact me, “Your Friend in Telecom”.

Looking forward to next year’s Canadian ISP Summit, Nov 2 to 4, 2020, the 10th anniversary edition.

2019 Canadian ISP Summit – Day 3

Fireside Chat with Konrad Von Finkenstein and Anja Karadeglija Photo Credit ; Canadian ISP Summit twitter feed

The main focus for the final day of the ISP Summit was regulatory. Former CRTC Chair Konrad Von Finckenstein held a fireside chat with Anja Karadeglija of the Wire Report. That was followed by a regulatory panel with Chris Tacit, Michael Geist and Laura Tribe moderated by Christine Dobby from the Globe & Mail.

Many hot issues were covered including MVNO’s, insights from KVF as to how decisions are made at the CRTC and the need for speed and certainty, the difficulty in establishing costing and the retroactive compensation to the competitive industry for overcharging by the incumbents that is being challenged in court. There were good questions from George Burger and Matt Stein to the former Chair challenging his viewpoint on making the decision retroactive for 3 years considering how long it took to make the decision.

Chris Tacit got a laugh from the audience when he mentioned the history of the incumbents tactics in fighting decisions that they don’t like back to Decision 92-12, when the CRTC opened up long distance market to competition. Some panelists and audience members may not have remembered 92-12, actually they might not even have been born yet. Of course that is when I was at ACC Long Distance as VP, Network so I lived and worked through those long distance wars and remember them well. And yes, Bell and the telcos were anti-competitive then and they still are now.

The panel also expounded on what the new minority Federal government might be able to accomplish in its mandate, as well as gave predictions on ministers such as Navdeep Bains and whether he would stay on at ISED or be given a different portfolio (consensus seems to be that he would get a new file) and that Minister Rodriguez might stay on Heritage.

Personally, I feel that a minority government can usually only accomplish a few items in its mandate. There are other , bigger files that will need attention right away such as Alberta and the pipeline issue. There may not be enough time or political capital to get much done on telecom or tech issues.

Once again the Canadian ISP Summit proved to be a great, action packed three days. The content was excellent, the networking was tremendous and it was great to see old friends and make some new ones.

2019 Canadian ISP Summit – Day 2

Photo credit to Maryna Ivus

The Dawn of a New Era in Canadian Telecom ? Maybe

Day 2 at the ISP Summit featured CNOC President and CEO of Distributel Matt Stein releasing a survey that reveals that Canadians are frustrated and feel dissatisfied and trapped by the Large Telcos. Consumers highlighted a lack of fairness, affordability and choice .

The following is an overview of select survey findings:

  • While almost all Canadians have Internet in their home, the majority are customers of the big telecommunications companies: Nearly all (97%) of Canadians have Internet service in their home. Almost eight-in-ten (79%) are customers of one of the big telecommunications providers, while only 3% are customers of smaller independent companies.
  • Canadians feel trapped by their current provider, with over half in Atlantic Canada feeling trapped: 40% would like to change companies but feel trapped by their current Internet service provider. Just over half (53%) of Atlantic Canadians are more likely to say they would like to change Internet providers but feel trapped.
  • Customers of the large telecommunications firms feel they have limited choice when it comes to changing companies: 65% of Canadians who have home Internet from a large telecom company feel there is no point in changing telecommunications companies as they are all pretty much the same.
  • Lack of competition has led Canadians to falsely believe there are no alternatives to the big telecommunications firms: Nearly half (45%) believe there are no alternatives to the large Internet service providers.
  • An anti-consumer environment has been nurtured and is thriving across Canada: Almost half (49%) of Canadians feel that it is too difficult to change Internet service providers.
  • Canadians are frustrated they are paying some of the highest prices in the world for home Internet: Nearly all (90%) Canadians who have home Internet are frustrated they are paying much higher Internet fees than consumers in other countries. Rural Canadians (96%) are significantly more likely to be frustrated with paying more than other countries compared to urban and suburban residents.
  • Customers of the large telecommunications firms have experienced price increases over the last 24 months – almost half without notification: Just over two-thirds (67%) of Canadians who have home Internet from a large telecom company say their Internet service provider has increased the price of their home Internet in the past 24 months. Among those who saw a price increase, 41% say the price increased without any notification.
  • Despite recent price increases, Canadians are experiencing an unacceptably low increase in value: Only 12% of Canadians with home Internet say they are getting more value in their products and services after a price increase. While still low, urban Canadians (16%) are more likely to say they got better service after a price increase, compared to suburban Canadians (8%) and rural Canadians (10%).

“Canadians have clearly voiced their concern about the status quo created by the large telecommunications firms,” said Stein. “The limits they have deliberately placed on consumer choice, fairness, affordability and competition have led to unacceptable levels of dissatisfaction. And when 40 percent of their customers say they want to change companies but feel trapped by their current provider, that’s a clear sign that the status quo is not serving Canadians.”

You can read more about it here