Three key themes dominated day 1 of MVNOs World Congress

On day 1 at MVNOs World Congress three key themes dominated the keynote speeches in the morning as speakers discussed ‘neo-telcos’, ‘personalisation’, and ‘eSIM for travel’.

Armita Satari

June 25, 2024

5 Min Read
MVNOs World Congress 2024 stage with 6 grey chairs
Source: Armita Satari/

The event is tailored around the Mobile Virtual Network Operators’ (MVNOs) and is taking place in Brussels, Belgium this year. The morning keynotes were filled with excitement as the market is once again facing growth after years of stagnation.

As such, the key themes of the 2024 event concerned the next phase for MVNOs. In that, it seems the rise of neo telcos, differentiation of offerings beyond connectivity, and the uptake of eSIM play a key role.

Event host James Gray, Managing Director at Graystone Strategy, shared the current valuation of the MVNO market, which he said lies at $80 billion and is forecast to grow at about 8% CAGR, taking it to $130 billion by 2030.

“And that doesn’t include the vendors and service providers coming into it”, said Gray, and that he was excited to host the event with players from the ecosystem that is driving such market growth. Much of this progress, he suggested, is being driven by generation Z consumers, citing a recent survey.  

MVNOs are also embracing AI to drive performance, Gray noted, as he compared the number of AI-related presentations at last year’s event to this year.

Next, we heard from Dario Talmesio, Research Director at Omdia, who presented a market overview introducing the notion of neo-telcos, a term borrowed from the banking industry which saw an accelerated digital transformation driven by the neo-banks.

Reiterating Gray’s point on growth, Talmesio highlighted two key messages. Firstly, he said “the MVNO market is growing again, we have had years of, let’s say, stagnation or decline, but we are finally back into growth mode”.

Secondly, he said “we are trying to introduce a new concept which we call neo-telcos..., those operators that maybe don’t own the entirety of their infrastructure, but they are incredibly, relentlessly focused on customer experience.”  

One such neo-telco example that was mentioned across the morning keynotes was Revolut, a mobile banking player who launched its eSIM proposition in February. It offers its British customer base mobile data roaming across 100 countries and keeps its focus on the travel aspect of eSIM.  Alongside airlines and the likes of Uber, these app-based businesses seem to have identified the potential of eSIM and how it may disrupt the whole telecom industry.  

Talmesio, who also spoke about the eSIM market, believes it was first really embraced by MVNOs, “we’ve been talking about eSIM for 10 years at these events, and while telecom operators, for various reasons, have been cautious about eSIM, the reality is that most MVNOs don’t get enough of eSIM, they want to get it as quickly as possible”.

For MVNOs, eSIM is particularly important, presumably as it makes it much easier to subscribe new customers and onboard them more seamlessly. But as Talmesio highlights, it enables them to target a new market segment. Unlike in the past where the typical MVNO target users were cost-conscious customers, now there is an opportunity to target high-end customers with eSIM enabled high-end devices directly.

The most typical eSIM use case that was mentioned in the morning keynotes was eSIM for travel. In particular, this segment is expected to become more mass-market this year (presumably as post-covid travel is expected to peak) and since it creates a travel mobility mode “in a digital and more or less efficient way”, according to Talmesio. Technology challenges remain but those were not delved into at the morning keynotes.

Instead, in a presentation Anirudh Radhakrishnan, Director at Plintron, a Telecom-As-A-Service provider and MVNO enabler, spoke about personalisation and how to transform customer engagement through data-driven insight for MVNOs. He shared his knowledge on how a dedicated customer engagement platform, driven by data analytics, can assist MVNOs with challenges such as driving revenue growth.

Through real-time data analytics, pattern detection, and insightful actions he elaborated on customising and personalising offers. This, Radhakrishnan explained, helps the MVNO to be more proactive than reactive, to upsell and to achieve enhanced customer experiences and to develop a relationship with customers. This premise seemed to feedback into the notion of the neo-telcos we had heard about earlier and fully embodying a digital enterprise.

During a panel discussion we then heard about best ways to differentiate the MVNO business and the best place for MVNOs to go for a strong proposition. First to acknowledge how hard differentiation is was Nick Wootten, MVNO Director at BT Wholesale. But he also urged the audience not to “underestimate the power of differentiating on the network experience itself”, acknowledging that as an MNO he would say that but also sharing examples from the UK.

Speaking on the same panel, Lifecycle Software CCO, Liz Parry, also spoke of hyper-personalisation as a means to position the business while Martina Klingvall, founder of Telness, insisted on the importance of messaging and recommended spending more time on “how to get the messaging of your differentiation out”.

Before a well-deserved coffee break, the morning was then wrapped up with a keynote presentation by Jacques Bonifay CEO at Transatel (now part of NTT) on how eSIM can unlock new services and opportunities for MVNOs beyond their domestic market. Once again eSIM for travel was a shining star but other examples included eSIM for business and for IoT. On eSIM for business, Bonifay made a key point on how WiFi and Bluetooth are embedded within laptop and tablets yet there are still few devices that are connected for mobile [eSIM]. This, he said, plays a key role in device security.

So on the whole, from neo-telcos to eSIM for travel and to personalisation, the morning of the MVNOs World Congress was filled with a host of optimism and opportunities for MVNOs and their ecosystem partners to be excited about, most importantly the predictions of growth which got a round of applause.

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