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The Web 2.0 MVNO

Juha Christensen, a former head of Microsoft's mobile business and a founder of Symbian, today launched a new MVNO (that's Mobile Virtual Network Operator, or wireless service reseller, for those of you who don't speak telecom) called Sonopia. Sonopia offers a back-end solution that allows any business to launch its own b
Juha Christensen, a former head of Microsoft's mobile business and a founder of Symbian, today launched a new MVNO (that's Mobile Virtual Network Operator, or wireless service reseller, for those of you who don't speak telecom) called Sonopia. Sonopia offers a back-end solution that allows any business to launch its own branded wireless phone service.Sonopia will rent network space from Verizon Wireless and give the client companies mobile phones, billing, and Web sites for their new subscribers. Sonopia claims that customers can set up a new mobile service in roughly 15 minutes.

Om Malik offers some insight into the new Web 2.0 MVNO:


Christensen has a new start-up, Sonopia, that has put together a back-end platform that allows anyone to become a mobile operator. "Think of it as MVNO as Web service," Christensen says.

With $9 million in venture funding from ComVentures and Sevin Rosen Funds, Sonopia is going after what Christensen describes as affinity groups -- Little League teams, universities, nonprofit groups, and even niche brands.

During our chat with Christensen, we learnt that the entire platform was built by an engineering team based in Kiev, Ukraine. "About 75% of our total employees." Christensen expects that Sonopia will power 10,000 or so "mobile operators" by 2009. Well, given that the traditional MVNO model has run into serious headwinds, one has to give Christensen points for trying something new. (My inner cynic thinks of this as MVNO-meets-Web 2.0)

The reseller model was big for both credit card companies and long distance providers. Some telecom insiders, though, argue that the long distance reseller model ultimately killed wireline long distance as a business for big wireline service providers, turning it into a niche commodity play.

Some wireless insiders a few years ago predicted that MVNOs would create similar disruption for the wireless industry. But to date only a few MVNOs, most notably Virgin Mobile, have seen any real success.

Do you think that there are thousands of brands out there waiting to launch their own branded wireless service? Or is the wireless market in the United States already saturated with little room for new players?

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