MVNOs : Explained

What are MVNOs?

Mobile Virtual Network Operators are telecom operators which do not own any telecom infrastructure and yet survive in the market based on their strategic alliances with current MNOs – Mobile Network Operators. MVNOs usually buy MOUs – Minutes of Use in bulk from traditional mobile operators for sale to their own customers.

The introduction of MVNOs in the market is a natural progression towards having a free market and contributing to the efficient use of telecom infrastructure. A mature market is expected to provide the customer with choice. It often becomes difficult for a large operator to service such diverse requirements effectively. Such varied requirements could get well addressed by niche operators catering to specific customer segments. These operators create a structure that differentiates between wholesale and retail operators.

Method of Service Delivery

MVNOs deliver their own SIM cards and are also responsible for branding, marketing, billing and customer care. Some MVNOs have their own infrastructure whereas some do not own infrastructure but are based on services provided by it such as:-
• Tariff and service design control or
• Only pre-packaged services.
• Service implementation and differentiation
Based on their infrastructure, MVNOs can be classified as Skinny MVNO, Thin MVNO and Thick MVNO.

Symbiotic relationship between MNOs and MVNOs

MVNOs cannot exist without MNOs.
MNOs also derive a lot of benefit from MVNOs, such as:
• MVNOs help in expanding the market size and penetration.
• MVNOs help MNOs target specific segments where they are weak and create a wider customer base. A larger market helps all the players concerned. MVNOs follow a Blue Ocean strategy of creating an uncontested market by reconstructing market boundaries.
• MVNOs help provide specific products and Value Added Services to customers. Eg. Disney provides cartoons and entertainment and ESPN helps provide sports information to its client base.
• MVNOs help MNOs in effective network and bandwidth utilization.
• MVNOs also help MNOs lower operational costs which accrue in the form of billing, sales, customer services, marketing budgets as they directly buy minutes from MNOs.

MVNOs and Blue Ocean strategies

The MVNO model is about providing differentiated services and hence rather than fight the battle, they create a whole new battlefield of their own choice. This is what Blue Ocean strategies are all about and so MVNOs are the best vehicles of experimentation for enterprising entrepreneurs.

The different ways in which MVNOs operate around the world are:
Business MVNOs like BeyondMobile and Abica provide bespoke services to businesses.
Discount MVNOs provide cut-price call rates to market segments.
Lifestyle MVNOs like Helio focus on specific niche market demographics.
Advertising-funded MVNOs like Blyk or MOSH Mobile build revenues from advertising to give a set amount of free voice, text and content to their subscribers.
Ethnic MVNOs like Lebara target ethnic communities by providing inexpensive calls to their home country.
Tesco, a UK based retailer, started an MVNO with O2 and An Post, Ireland’s postal service started one with Vodafone.

Future of MVNOs

A lot of the MVNOs mentioned haven’t worked and there have been some high profile failures, notably that of Disney and ESPN. But the business model of MVNOs is still a lucrative one and there are more and more players joining in the fray. More about MVNOs in India soon.

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Cellular Phone Security

I recently lost my cellphone and that was when I came to know about IMEI number and why the Government of India is not allowing China made cellphones without IMEI number to work in India. My cellphone was a cheap Nokia one and losing it gave me endless joy as it helped me get a newer better version. But what if you have a high end phone and you lose it. There is a way to ensure that if you do not get your cellphone back, you can at least ensure that whosoever gets it is not able to use it too. Read On.

What to do if your cellphone is stolen?


Every phone has a IMEI number. IMEI – International Mobile Equipment Identity or IMEI number is a unique which helps identify mobile and some satellite phones. IMEI number is usually found in the battery compartment of the mobile phone and should not be confused with the IMSI number about which we will learn more later. The primary use of the IMEI number is to provide more security by uniquely identifying every phone working on the network. We can easily know the IMEI number of our phones by pressing *#06# into the keypad.

So how can IMEI number prevent our cellphone from getting stolen?


The IMEI number is mapped to the device and this mapping has a one to one relationship. This means that there is one IMEI number for every single device. The moment we start using a cellular phone with a valid IMEI number, the same is transmitted to and stored by the service provider in a register called as the EIR – Equipment Identity Register. GSM network operators maintain three lists of international mobile equipment identities (IMEI) in their Equipment Identity Register (EIR):
# grey – GSM mobile phones to be tracked
# white- Barred GSM mobile phones
# white – Valid GSM mobile phones
Hence if the user tries to connect to the network and get on call using the Barred GSM mobile phone, he/she will be barred from using the network.
But what if the phone is taken to another region where our network provider and hence his EIR are both not accessible. That is when CEIR comes in to play.
CEIR – Central Equipment Identity Register is a database of IMEI number of blacklisted devices. Chinese mobiles have been banned in India if they do not possess IMEI number and the same has been facilitated by the use of EIR and CEIR.

Network Operators Benefit through IMEI number?


The increasing number of high end phones in the market also increases vulnerability of network operators due to spamming, spoofing and hacking. Spoofing can change the identity of the user and this might lead to revenue leakage. Network operators benefit from having a built in mechanism that can help them keep suspicious cellular phones in check.

Mobile Phone Tracking through IMEI number


Cellular phones can be tracked and their location can be established using Mobile Phone Tracking mechanisms. Mobile Phones can be tracked by cellular towers, software in the cellular phones or by using a combination of both these mechanisms.
Cellular towers can track a phone in its cell or other cells by interpreting signals and signal strength from the cellular phone and also by using methods such as triangulation.
Handset based techniques can be implemented when the mobile device is equipped with GPS or a software that helps track its location.
Sometimes methods that utilize both of these techniques are also used to track the cellular phone. If you are buying a high end smart phone then you can be rest assured that it will be having most of the security mechanisms already built into its system.

IMEI number vs IMSI


The IMEI number is associated with the device and has no relation whatsoever to the subscriber. The IMEI number should not be confused with the IMSI – International Mobile Subscriber Identity which is used to create relevant entries about the phone in the HLR – Home location register or the VLR – Visitors Location Register. The IMSI is stored in the SIM card. It is a 15 (or sometimes 14)digit long number which consists of the Mobile Country Code (MCC) which is 3 digits long, and is followed by the Mobile Network Code (MNC), either 2 digits (European standard) or 3 digits (North American standard). The remaining digits are the mobile station identification number (MSIN) within the network’s customer base. The IMSI is used to activate/deactivate the customer account by the telecom service provider when the customer lodges such a request. So when we call the call center and ask the service provider to stop billing on our card, this is the number that they use to deactivate the customer account.  
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Overview of Cellular Networks

A cellular network is called so as it is created of many cell like structures connected to each other. The cells are hexagonal in shape like a honeycomb. Every cell has a tower that is responsible for providing “Network Access” to all the cellular mobile phones in that cell. 

Why are Cellular Networks, Cellular?

Cellular networks work on radio wave frequencies that are assigned to them and within these limited, shared frequencies they need to try and accommodate as many users as possible. Cellular networks are arranged as cells as it helps frequency reuse, bandwidth optimization and hence supports more cellular phone users. The hexagonal cell structure was found to be the best structure for implementing cellular networks as it helps reach the most number of people without conflicting frequencies or sacrificing on the number of cellular mobile phones that are being used.

How do Cellular Phones work?

When a cellular phone user makes a call, it reaches the towers which are called as BTS – Base Transceiver Station or cell site and which houses transceivers as its name suggests. A transceiver is also called as a TRX and it is basically a device that helps in transmitting and receiving radio signals. The TRX aka DRX – Driver Receiver will be in contact with the cellular phone or any other User Equipment. It is used primarily to send and receive signals over the radio frequency. 

The BTS forms a part of the BSS Base Station Subsystems and it is controlled by a parent Base Station Controller via the BCF Base Station Controller Function. The BTS takes input from the UE under guidance from the BCF and passes the same on to the BSC Base Station Controller. The signals from the BSC are passed on to MSC.

The MSC or the Mobile Switching Center is where the call signals from the User Equipment are passed on further to the number it intends to connect to. A MSC is a soft switch that provides facilities for calling and receiving calls to numbers registered in the network and also outside it – roaming. It uses various databases like HLR and VLR for this purpose. 

Once the call is forwarded from the MSC it reaches another MSC or a BTS and connects to the user the call is dialed to. The whole function happens in a matter of seconds.  

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Persona for Offshore Web Development

What is Persona?

The concept of Persona has long been used in marketing as a tool to define users and user groups. Persona was introduced as a tool for Web and Application development by Alan Cooper, better known as the “Father of Visual Basic”. For Business Analysts, Persona is an invaluable tool for helping bridge the gap between clients and developers.

It is important to realize that people are diverse. We must understand that all users, including those with disabilities use our products differently. This is because different people use different adaptive techniques, different interaction strategies, different experiences, different expectations and different preferences.

While Persona do not ideally help address all the differences, they do try and bring out all the common traits in the user group and define a personality based on extensive market and data research. Let us try to best understand a Persona with an example.

Persona Example
Rahul is a manager in a recruitment agency in Mumbai. He lost his eyesight at the age of 12 in an accident. This disability has made it difficult for him to achieve the degree of success that he has achieved. He being a very determined individual doesn’t take no for an answer and has been working hard to improve his lot.

Besides his work, Rahul also volunteers in a disability rights organization called GIVE India.
Rahul uses the internet at home with the help of a screen reader to keep track of the news and to keep in touch with the people working in his domain. He has a fast internet connection at his office, but the slow dial up connection at home coupled with badly created websites frustrate him.

Check out these Steps to create a Persona.

Persona:Advantages for Offshore Development

Persona are helpful in understanding user requirements better – especially in Offshore Web Development. As business analysts working in an Offshore Development setup, it becomes imperative for us to create a bridge between client expectations and developer understanding of the project. Creating a persona helps a great deal in this task.

This is especially important in small to medium scale organizations which have only the voice of a customer to listen to while developing a project. Some of the major benefits of Persona are:

1. User Perspective

Developer will be able to create their applications and its benchmarks based on user preferences and not on their own. Persona helps gain a very clear user perspective. 

After learning and hearing the experiences of Rahul and his work, a developer will be able to realize that creating a website that is very complex or which has links placed very close to one another is not recommended. Also having really beautiful colors on the website will not be a very important requirement.

2. Story Telling

All our lives, we have loved to listen and create stories. Nothing helps clear user requirements better than creating a good story and telling it to the developers. Communicating the stories of our users to the developers and how the tackle their problems at work and away will help them get a real sense of their clients and their issues.

Nathan likes surfing the internet when at the office and he makes note of all the good sites he has visited during the time period. To ensure that he is able to access these files whenever he wants to he stores these files on Google docs.

3. Role Playing

 No story is complete without the characters and the characters that define a story help create a better understanding of the users to the development team.

If the users of a particular Plumbing Equipment Shopping Cart Website are considered, they are mostly men – technicians who are aware of the specifics of every product and who are buying for their clients and not themselves. A technician will buy what their clients require and no more. While designing a website for such a customer, we need to realize that Up Selling to technicians will not work. But providing discounts to returning customers will.

4. Crucial for Localized Products

With websites increasingly catering to smaller and more localized niches rather than the behemoths of ancient times, it is imperative that developers creating these websites are able to understand the real requirements of the end users. Developers will be able to create websites far more easily using Persona in such circumstances.

Amanda lives in a small village in Denmark and buys essential items online as it saves her the trip to the nearby city. The requirements of Amanda are completely different from those of Nathan who lives in New York. This will have to reflect not just in the products and design but also the business logic of the website. Cross selling of articles for Amanda will be different from cross selling for Nathan for instance. 

Persona for Business Analysts

Persona also adds a lot of value in communications for the business analysts and they help in clarifying a lot of product documentation and requirements documentation. They thus help ensure that:
1. Documentation is neither superfluous nor over specific.
2. Features are prioritized better.
3. Helps create a product that focuses better on persona’s values.

Persona for Developers

Besides helping the business analysts, Persona also empowers the developers as they are able to:
1. Take good, reasonable implementation decisions easily
2. Understand requirements more easily with lesser specifications.
3. Raise concerns that are valid
4. Look forward to being able to find best opportunities.
5. Stay focused on real requirements.
6. Use common language of Persona for internal communication. 

Persona have been known to be implemented and used in various ways on the development floor. Some are printed, some on the charts and some hung on the green boards. Persona has also been used as screen savers and desktop backgrounds for employees to ensure that they keep in touch with client requirements. But its multifarious benefits have been reaped by one and all irrespective of its method of implementation.

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Internet Business Analysis

India is slowly – very slowly becoming more internet savvy and even though it is an accepted fact that mobile phones will be ruling the Indian market, the internet still is a lucrative business. There are a huge number of start ups that are based on the internet presently and a even larger number that have already failed after trying to crack the difficult Indian market.

So there are some questions that every start up should be asking itself.  

1. What is the USP of your website?
The question to ask when starting up with any new website is similar to the one you would ask while starting a new business: What is it that the site brings to the table that is better, cheaper and easier than what already exists.

2. What is the prime objective of the website?
Being able to state the objective clearly in as less words as possible helps define a scope. This in turn helps both the website owner and the development team to have a very clear picture of what it is that they are creating.
Broadly, the internet consists of sites that do the following:
1. Search Engine
2. Collaborative
3. Informative
4. Information Gathering
5. Buy and Sell on the Internet

There is a difference between creating a search engine for real estate – and a site that provides information about real estate – and this needs to be kept in mind all the time while designing and developing the site.

3. What is the target audience of the website?
The internet helps in targeted advertising and targeted marketing. Demographics are important and they are becoming even more important on the internet. The best way to ascertain a target audience is to create a Persona. Read more about Persona in my next post.

The answers to these questions help clear a lot of doubts for both the development team and the client in any internet based web development project and also ensure successful project completion.

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