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Start up allows anyone to become an MVNO

Californian start up Sonopia jumped onto the rapidly rolling community orientated services bandwagon this week, with the promise that just about anyone can become a mobile carrier.

Sonopia has struck a deal with US operator Verizon Wireless to rent and sub-let space on the operator’s network.

But instead of promoting its own Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO), Sonopia will allow users to create their own branded operation.

Sonopia reckons it takes minutes to set up one of its own-powered virtual mobile carriers and has facilities in place to allow its users to get access to a selection of popular phones, competitive calling plans, and voice and data services.

The business model works on a revenue-sharing basis, with each party involved getting a portion of the money generated by subscribers’ monthly usage fees.

The company said it is targeting organisations with more than 50,000 members, such as large non-profits, sports franchises, universities, entertainment groups and major brands, as well as smaller organisations such as special interest groups, online affiliates, and local clubs.

Although US MVNO’s have experienced something of a backlash over the past year, with some high profile failures such as ESPN, Informa Telecoms & Media recently reported that the MVNO sector is in resurgent mood.

MVNOs around the world will have a total of 133 million customers by 2011, roughly 4.5 per cent of the total mobile market, the analyst said.

In its latest report, ‘MVNO Strategies and Forecasts to 2011: Evolving Opportunities in the Global Telecoms Marketplace,’ the analyst group contradicts recent bad press that the MVNO sector has received, and points to a resurgence.

The analyst says that press reports of the MVNO sector being “a business in crisis” with several high profile market exits, including ESPN in the US, have been identified as evidence of the poor health of the MVNO approach. However, this is an over-simplification of the issues according to Paul Merry, senior analyst with Informa and lead author of the study. Merry said: “The MVNO opportunity was over-hyped and is now experiencing the classic reaction to hype, a backlash.”

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