Writes Louise Hunt
Durban, South Africa – In a well-regulated, but heavily ‘stitched-up’ mobile telecommunications market, MVN-X emerged as a trailblazer over a decade ago. The company made its mark by introducing an entirely new category of business as South Africa’s first MVNO-Enabler, catalysing a wave of transformation and a new opportunity for big brands to connect with, and digitize, their customers.
As a whole, the sector is on par with most first-world markets and, in some cases, even more advanced. And despite prolonged socio-economic turmoil, mobile telecoms has faithfully performed and stands proud as a resilient and mature, pillar of the national fiscus. As such, the technology-driven-data-dependant era means that digital connectivity is now a resource that, to varying degrees, every single household, private individual, public and corporate citizen heavily relies on – every single day, in a multiplicity of ways.
South Africans are no strangers to the fierce competition between the network giants. Historically, the operators have called the shots as keepers of the privy purse – however, an exciting new dynamic is emerging, as evidenced in a ground-breaking move powered by MVN-X. Earlier this month, news broke of You&Me Mobile and uConnect launching online eSIM purchase and activation. Both companies are MVNOs. Both are enabled by MVN-X. And both have left the networks trailing behind this strategic innovation.
Valde Ferradaz, chief executive officer of MVN-X says, “Enabling online eSIM activation sets a new standard in accessible data and cutting-edge connectivity within South Africa’s dynamic mobile communications sector.” An eSIM is a digital SIM card that gives consumers access to pre or post-paid data over multiple networks, without having to do a physical SIM swop. This innovation has significantly shifted the way consumers access and utilise their data, offering quick and easy access through zero-rated websites. “The horizons of connectivity are expanding, and customers of both uConnect and me&you Mobile can now seamlessly integrate their data plans at the click of a mouse,”
MVNOs are uniquely positioned
He points out that this development is a positive proof point for the MVNO business case. For companies looking to enter the market, “This is another advance that pulls into focus strategic business opportunities at hand. It’s an opportunity that goes beyond technology alone and into the ‘soul’ of a business. MVNOs are uniquely positioned with a rich and deep treasury to build their business on, and time has proven, an MVNO is one of the most effective ways to enhance customer experience, engagement and reward.”
Ferradaz is known and trusted in equal measure for being as personable as he is respected for over two decades of multi-market, multi-network expertise. With a keen insight into growth and business modelling, he highlights the need for ambitious MVNOs to adapt in a maturing MVNO market. “In response to the evolving digital landscape, we’re seeing a massive demand for data, and although the market is not there yet, operator parity in terms of pricing and infrastructure is inevitable. It’s complex and nuanced, and there are a handful of drivers influencing how MVNOs are adapting to meet the demands.”
According to Ferradaz, an omni-operator approach is the way of the future for MVNOs. MVN-X is the only enabler in South Africa to offer clients this kind of flexibility with powerful omni-network integration technology and multiple network operator partnerships already in place and performing well.
Ferradaz’s five-year tenure at MVN-X has resulted in explosive growth for the company and its clients. “MVN-X has outstanding network operator partnerships, and our commercial, strategic and industry intelligence goes unmatched.” He puts the surge in interest from new MVNOs down to a number of factors, notwithstanding that eligible brands are grasping a better understanding that the networks compete against each other, and not with the mobile service providers. “It’s a win-win on all sides. More space in the market for MVNOs, robust competition between existing and new brands, and customer fulfilment by means and ways unique to each operating structure respectively,” Ferradaz says.
Consumer behaviour and priorities, drivers of change
Joining the conversation, Danie Swart, chief commercial and operations officer at MVN-X, points out that traditional MVNO-telco business models are no longer sufficient. Launching online eSIM activation is exactly one pivot point that Mobile Service Providers (or MVNOs) are using to fortify their subscriber bases, and increase returns. Swart says, “This is where the beauty of this business model lies. It’s an opportunity unique to retailers and big business with substantial geographical reach and legacy clientele.”
Traditionally, MVNOs have rewarded customers, loyal to their own principal brand, with data in return for spend. But, Swart iterates that changing consumer needs and behaviour, amongst advances in technology are playing a role in reshaping the mobile market. “These changes are giving rise to a converged services model, where customers and subscribers will receive rewards for spending on a wide range of services beyond the brands’ core offering. Customers are looking for, and need more than just being rewarded with data for their in-store spend – and MVNOs are perfectly positioned to respond with an omni-carrier, multi-service and value-added strategy.”
One view of the customer, over an omni-carrier, omni-service provider landscape
MVN-X’s focus on technology, business strategy, and marketing has solidified its position as South Africa’s largest and longest-standing enabler of MVNOs. The company has consistently invested in world-class technology, positioning its clients as leaders and innovators in their respective fields. Valde Ferradaz says, “In our world, platforms, systems and technology are regarded as a ‘hygiene’ factor. It’s the strategic engineering, commercial modelling, marketing and more – that are the engine room of a successful MVNO. This is an X-factor that a machine can’t match.”
MVN-X’s converged billing and rewards roadmap promises to provide significant benefit in the near future, for both MVNOs and their customers. Subscribers will be rewarded with data for typical spend and have the option to earn more data rewards, for money spent on things like basic utilities (e.g.: water, lights, gas, refuse removal), fibre, banking, insurance, fuel and more. For MVNOs – put simply, this is the proverbial ‘golden goose’. And it’s the sweet spot that traditional telcos and network operators will find it difficult to compete with.
One, consolidated view
With the converged model, the MVNO will have access to one, consolidated view of the customer – this can translate into significant returns over time if the data is treated with sensitivity and smarts. In return, the customer will receive:
Ordinary citizens are having to make impossible choices
In times when consumers are cash-strapped and time-starved, we are seeing a major, rapidly evolving socio-economic dynamic. According to Ferradaz, “People have no other choice but to be brutal, fastidious about how and where they spend their hard-earned income. Saving is for a privileged few. Ordinary citizens are having to make impossible choices – staple foods, shelter, clothing, electricity. Or connectivity? The caveat with opting for ‘little to no connectivity’, is almost equivalent to cutting off our water supply.” Ferradaz affirms that people rely so heavily on connectivity to fulfil basic daily needs that limited or no access is like being thrown into solitary confinement. “Think about job-seekers,
or learners relying on their phones for research or someone in distress or danger without having access to data, connectivity. The list is endless,” Ferradaz says.
Data connectivity is an essential basic commodity
Swart and Ferradaz concur that consumers are looking for data. Free data. Swart says, “In the future, access to free data will no doubt be considered a basic human necessity and right. Data is the lifeblood of the digital age. For now, consumers are flocking to where they receive the most benefit in return for their loyalty and spend.”
At the forefront of MVNO-Enablement in Africa, this is an incredibly exciting time for MVN-X. The company pioneered the MVNO era, and seeing the much-anticipated market boom gain momentum, makes them exceptionally proud of the catalytic influence the business is having on the digital economy in Southern Africa. As the strategic and technical enablement partners of 75 percent of the MVNOs in the region, MVN-X is a dynamic force in the mobile service provider industry, and as they continue to push boundaries, MVN-X is set to play a significant role in shaping the future of connectivity in South Africa and beyond.
Let’s keep up the conversation – book a complimentary consultation with one of our experts to find out how we can make your MVNO a reality.