Voce, MVNO To The Elite, Abruptly Goes OfflineVoce, MVNO To The Elite, Abruptly Goes Offline
The last 12 months have seen the death of many an MVNO. None of the flame-outs have had the same, dark, seedy, Hollywood noir endings that <a href="http://www.voce.com/homepage1.html">Voce's</a> did. It started when Roy Kosuge, COO of Voce, got out of bed last Friday morning. Upon checking his cell phone, he found out it, along with his company, was dead. (Queue dramatic '50s movie score.) Voce treated its premium customers to a premium "buh-bye".
February 7, 2008
The last 12 months have seen the death of many an MVNO. None of the flame-outs have had the same, dark, seedy, Hollywood noir endings that Voce's did. It started when Roy Kosuge, COO of Voce, got out of bed last Friday morning. Upon checking his cell phone, he found out it, along with his company, was dead. (Queue dramatic '50s movie score.) Voce treated its premium customers to a premium "buh-bye".First, some background.
Every MVNO seems to have its own angle. Voce's angle was luxury, style, and class. Its target segment was the young and fabulous. You know, the Paris Hiltons of the world. Voce's many slogans go something like this: Voce -- Premium Wireless, and Yes, We'll Help You With That. You know those pesky $30 to $40 activation fees that go along with singing a new contract with the wireless providers that us mere mortals use? That ain't nothing, baby. In order to sign up with Voce, you had to pay a $500 initiation fee. Monthly usage fees for unlimited calls and a 24/7 personal concierge service were $200 per month (later dropped to $118 per month.) The personal assistant service promises this: "You'll speak with a knowledgeable, personable human being with incredible resources at their fingertips. From the everyday to the extraordinary. As often as you like." Basically, if you want dinner reservations, theater tickets, airline reservations, etc, dial 611 and you're "taken care of." (Not in the Wiseguy sense.) Voce offered only the finest handsets. Examples include the LG Prada phone, the Nokia N95, and the Sony Ericsson W880i. And its Web site promises that "One of our top priorities is to earn and keep your business." Um. Yeah. Right. Voce kicked its Prada-wearing customers to the curb in a way that they likely weren't used to being treated. Employees and subscribers (all 2,000 of them) found out bright and early Friday morning when they woke up to phones that had been bricked and rendered useless that Voce was no more. Because all the accounts had been fully canceled, none of the customers was able to keep or port their numbers. Keep in mind, Voce offered business accounts. Subscribers could very well have missed out on business calls and lost money by not having access to their phones. To add insult to injury, each customer had been double-billed for the month of January. Apparently, Voce has changed ownership several times during its brief life. Most recently, it switched hands from Faith Communications to SunCal Midwest, a property of SunCal Funds, which is based in Chicago. Since the change in ownership last month, employees have not been paid. Looks like the fund managers decided it was a losing investment and decided to cut bait. Kind of interesting that the company's COO was not even clued in to the fact that the company was about to have the lights shut off. Those responsible should consider this. Voce's subscribers thought they were signing on to a premium service. That means their subscribers have money and like to think they're important. Many of them probably have their lawyers on speed-dial. If not, they have the cash to hire one. Treating this set of customers like this was a stupid move. Someone is responsible, and a team of lawyers is going to find out who, and make them pay. SunCal, get ready for a heap of lawsuits.
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