K-based Lycamobile, which claims more than 6 million customers globally, and Amaysim launched discount MVNOs in November. Lycamobile is offering cheap prepaid international calls over Telstra’s 2G network aimed at the ex-pat market, while Amaysim uses Optus’ 3G network for SIM-only mobile data and discount calls.
These new MVNOs are not going head-to-head with Australia’s incumbent trio Telstra, Optus, and Vodafone Hutchison Australia. Rather, they are targeting the low end, offering aggressively priced plans in a mature mobile market with a penetration rate exceeding 120%. Their host MNOs, Telstra and Optus – which effectively control MVNO margins through the wholesale rates they set – appear content to let such MVNOs target the low-end segment. This means that any plans by Telstra and Optus to spin off “targeted brands” aimed at cost-conscious customers will likely be on the back burner.
MVNOs gather steam
Australia’s MVNO market is gaining pace. Amaysim appears to be the most threatening of the latest arrivals. It is owned by the founders of European MVNO operator Simyo, which was sold to Dutch telco giant KPN, with MVNOs in Belgium, Germany, France, Netherlands, and Spain.
Amaysim has brought Simyo’s lean operating model to Australia, kicking off with a multi-million-dollar advertising campaign featuring A$0.15 ($0.148) per minute national calls, A$0.12 texts, no flagfall, and 90-day recharge. Other MVNO newcomers also include domestic fixed broadband operators such as Dodo and iiNet, which are now offering mobile services via MVNOs to increase revenues.
More MVNOs are expected to follow in 2011. Telstra, which has not strongly promoted MVNOs, is becoming more aggressive and is even contemplating opening up its Next G network. Investment analysts who follow Telstra have been encouraging it to launch new brands targeted at the low end, similar to the airline industry, but it is wary of white-label MVNOs. Optus is more eager to tap the wholesale market, recently telling analysts that it sees bigger opportunities for niche market players.
Ovum believes there are untapped customer segments still to be carved out, even in a saturated market such as Australia. Indeed, customer segmentation becomes even more important in mature markets.