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Reaction to Sky MVNO launch – disruptions, missed opportunities and cattiness

With Sky’s assault on the $15 billion UK mobile market now officially out in the open, the news has received mixed reviews from industry commentators.

Jamie Davies

November 30, 2016

5 Min Read
Reaction to Sky MVNO launch – disruptions, missed opportunities and cattiness

With Sky’s assault on the $15 billion UK mobile market now officially out in the open, the news has received mixed reviews from industry commentators.

Sky’s MVNO launch is one of the industry’s worst kept secrets with rumours kicking off in January 2015. With this much time to put together its proposition it better be pretty good as competitors are seemingly at their catty-best currently and the consumer at the most demanding.

Firstly, the team has taken the unique approach of rolling unused data allowances in a piggybank for future use, as what could prove to be quite an appealing move of allowing customers to flex their contracts month-on-month. Although these moves are not ground-breaking when you look at other international markets, they have the potential to be quite disruptive in the UK market.

“Sky’s ‘hook’ is allowing customers to ‘piggybank’ data that went unused at the end of each month and store it for up to three years,” said Dan Howdle, Director of Communications at Cable.co.uk. “No mobile provider has ever offered this before. It shows a keen understanding of how customers consume their data – some months they use a lot, others they use very little.

“This flexibility should allow consumers to choose a lower data tariff on the basis of rolling over data they don’t use during lower-usage months – and that will save them money. Perhaps best of all, though, it may force the hand of other UK providers to follow suit – and that would be good for everybody.”

Sky already has a strong customer base and a goodish brand reputation in the UK so as market entrants go it is in a better position than most. The team recently announced its quarterly figures with group revenue was reported at £3.1 billion for the period, a year-on-year boost of 13%, with over 100,000 new customers joined Sky. It currently has in the region of 11 million customers in the UK currently.

With its traditional position as a TV broadcaster set in stone for most individuals in the UK, the team has a significant opportunity to add genuine value to a mobile contract though content. There are very few organizations in the world who have the same breadth and depth of content Sky commands, and for Paolo Pescatore, Director of Multi-play and Media at CCS Insight, this could be a real game-changer for the UK mobile market.

“Overall, we are somewhat underwhelmed with Sky’s mobile offer,” said Pescatore. “We feel that Sky has missed a trick by not placing greater focus on its biggest asset, content. Mobile network operators will breathe a sigh of relief given that Sky has decided not to go down the route of giving mobile away.

“There is a still a significant opportunity for the company to cross sell mobile into its existing core pay TV base; as it has successfully achieved with fixed line broadband. Our own multi-play survey data shows that Sky is a brand households trust.

“We feel that for now, rival mobile network providers will not be overly concerned by this latest move. Sky is targeting its existing customer base and is taking a phased approach to rolling out its mobile service.

“We expect Sky to offer more features, offer devices as a bundle and most likely greater synergies with its TV services. We also expect it to make its mobile offer more attractive to non-Sky TV subscribers and that is when we believe that Sky Mobile will be a force to be reckoned with.”

While Pescatore is not overly enthused with the launch, Ewan Taylor-Gibson at uSwitch.com is a bit more upbeat about the entry.

“Sky’s first mobile offering is very competitive, as long as you’re already a Sky TV customer,” said Taylor-Gibson. “Sky’s SIM-only set up is distinctly comparable to giffgaff’s. Both piggyback off O2’s network and both allow customers to dial their plans up or down depending on their usage. Mobile users love that kind of flexibility – it shouldn’t be underestimated as a perk.

“The key differences between the two are that Sky ties you in for 12 months, while giffgaff users can cancel anytime, and giffgaff also offers unlimited everything for £20 a month, beating Sky’s top package which delivers 5GB. But the fact that Sky is letting people roll over data and store it for three years is both unique and compelling. And for those who like to watch TV on the go, Sky TV customers taking advantage of this mobile offering will also get Sky Go Extra for free – usually £5 a month for its TV customers.

“By putting data first, with minutes and texts as an add on, Sky is catering to our ever-increasing appetite for megabytes. But if the TV giant really wants to appeal to data hungry consumers it may have to offer bigger data bundles. However, early interest from 46,000 customers is certainly a head-start out of the blocks.”

Considering the appetite for data is growing faster and faster, and the quantity of video available for consumers is only increasing as well, Sky may have to consider increasing the data bundles in the future. The mobile TV market is a very lucrative one and Sky is in a strong position to capitalize, but only if the right building blocks are being used.

That said, it wouldn’t quite be a mobile launch if one of the market’s giants wasn’t prepared to make a comment. Strap yourselves in, EE has decided to make its voice heard, and it’s quite b*tchy.

According to several independent network tests O2’s network has been less than dominant when it comes to video streaming performance. OpenSignal’s analysis shows O2 is one of the poorer performers when compared to Three, EE and Vodafone, while the Ofcom smartphone cities report had O2 in last place.

The EE press team was kind enough to pull together this information for Telecoms.com, but it looks like it decided sending a comment was a step too far. Although Sky has a long-way to catch up with the current industry leaders, your correspondent get the feeling EE is worried about the latest market entrant, and whether its own content is good enough to compete with what Sky can offer.

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