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July 01, 2016

Who isn't an MVNO These Days?

I had a chance recently to interview Robert Chamberlin, the Chief Revenue Officer and Co-Founder of DataXoom, which is a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO).

Through the years, as a bell head, I have looked at MVNOs as if they were the equivalent of prepaid calling cards. Not exactly a flattering view. I have also had people jump ship from carrier to MVNO or vice versa and with the hat change came a newfound evangelism against their former ways of life. Like an ex-smoker—convinced they were saving you from yourself.

It was that history that drove our conversation.

Robert took my skepticism in stride and pointed out that for their business customers, the carriers themselves had a bit of a reputation. You see, if the business discovered a hole in the coverage or a network anomaly, the carrier has a tendency to suggest that they should look at the overall service and be content. In other words they did not have a quick fix.

MVNOs on the other hand, provide a safety net where the carrier coverage is matched against the customer need and coverage and redundancy is achieved.

As we talked, it became clear that my “real men have fiber in trenches,” bell head view was not anywhere in the discussion with DataXoom’s customer base. The cloud and carrier redundancy were the values and making sure the price for data services on mobile devices were well managed.

MVNOs like DataXoom these days are an easier vendor to manage, since the contract is not a commitment to whatever the carrier’s system can manage at whatever the carrier wants to charge.

However, Robert was quick to point out that it was probably their dashboard for managing the services from DataXoom that mattered most to their customers. You see most carriers’ legacy systems have inherent rules about turning systems on and managing the customer that make it hard for businesses to facilitate internal deployments.

Enabling business to deploy configurations and turn them on when ready has been a key benefit for MVNOs from the start.

I pointed out that it’s rare that carriers actually own all the infrastructure these days. Towers and fiber routes are often found via purchasing teams rather than network engineers. And as SDN becomes a reality, the dashboard will be the driver for carrier success. I pointed out that this dashboard function was a key ingredient in the success and valuation of Jasper Wireless which was recently acquired by Cisco for $1.4 billion.

DataXoom is not competing at that level with a US Centric solution today, but Robert was happy to have such a benchmark out there.

Edited by Ken Briodagh

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