Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Dean Bubley: Convergence may not be so simple

Dean Bubley post his thoughts on the NTL / Virgin Mobile deal at his Disruptive Wireless blog. While usually "a big believer in the upsides of the "broadband operator + MVNO" model," Bubley points out "a couple of flies in the ointment" on this deal:

  1. most MVNOs (especially in Europe) have an overwhelming proportion of pre-pay customers. Many will be young people who use someone else's broadband & whose parents / flatmates / university residence halls' managers may be unwilling to change to benefit someone else's bundled quad-play
  2. many of the favoured approaches to dual-mode services - not just UMA (which regular readers will know I tend to criticise anyway) but many SIP-based alternatives too - need boxes to be integrated fairly tightly into existing cellular networks. These usually require direct access to elements in the cellular core such as MSCs (switches) and HLRs (home location registers - essentially the database that tells the network where you are). My understanding is the most MVNOs' deals don't give full access to these network elements, and that "technically deeper" MVNO deals like BT/Vodafone are relatively unusual in this regard. I don't know what the precise network-side ins & outs of Virgin's MVNO set-up are..... but I'd advise any M&A guys to take a close look at things like "Access to the 'A' Interface" before putting up any persuasive Powerpoint slides featuring WiFi/cellular handsets & (yawn) "Seamless Roaming".