BroadbandNetworks

Sky Mobile Network Goes Live, Claiming To Be ‘Deepest MVNO Ever Built’

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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Sky Mobile finally launches with data rollover, tariff switching and TV programme streaming as director Lyssa McGowan claims most comprehensive MVNO ever

Sky Mobile has launched in the UK, claiming to be the most comprehensive mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) ever built. 

The service will go fully operational in December and uses O2’s infrastructure but Sky says it has built out many of the core systems itself so it can exert as much control as possible over the customer experience. 

The company’s long-awaited entry into the market was announced more than 18 months ago and precious little information about its plans had been disclosed. But from tomorrow it will start selling to staff and then to the 46,000 people who have pre-registered. 

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Flexible mobile 

Sky Mobile enters a crowded mobile sector populated by EE, O2, Vodafone, Three, Virgin Media and numerous other MVNOs, but it believes its “trusted” brand, existing user base and ‘flexible’ contracts will help it snare a share of the £15 billion market. 

“We felt it was time to shake up the market,” said Lyssa McGowan, director of Sky Mobile. She said that with 23 million landline, broadband and television customers to tap into, and 52 million mobile contracts in the UK at present, there is significant opportunity in an adjacent market. 

“We have no [mobile] legacy and no legacy systems. There is customer appetite to buy more from Sky and specifically mobile. We’re a trusted brand, known for customer service and innovation.” 

Sky customers will get free calls and minutes, along with a data bundle. These are 1GB for £10 a month, 3GB for £15 and 5GB for £20. Unused data rolls over to a ‘piggy bank’ to be drawn from at any point in the future and an additional gigabyte costs £10. What’s more, customers can switch tariffs any time. 

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“You’ve paid for this data and you should get to keep it,” said McGowan, who suggested the tariffs were targeted at typical customers rather than ‘super users’ who need more than 10GB. “It makes sense. No one else gives you that kind of flexibility.” 

Another unique selling point is the ability to download TV programmes from a Sky+ box over Wi-Fi or stream them via 4G. However this traffic will not be zero-rated (I.e. this will still count towards a data allowance) and there are no content bundles. 

“Our research showed that wasn’t appealing,” explained McGowan when asked by Silicon. “[It showed] sync was more compelling. 

“Zero rating has come into some other markets but here it’s never taken off in the UK.” 

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Deepest MVNO ever 

Launching at the end of November means Sky meets its target of launching in 2016, but why so long? 

“We’ve launched on time and on budget,” she said. “The reason is the depth of the MVNO. We’ve done it in probably half the time as anyone else.” 

Sky has its own SIMS, negotiated its handset deals (these will start in the spring), integrated billing and can roll out features such as Voice over Wi-Fi (VoWi-Fi) or Voice over LTE (VoLTE) itself. It can also choose to use a different host network if it wanted to, but McGowan insisted Sky was “absolutely” happy with O2. 

The company was linked with a bid for O2 when Telefonica was looking for a buyer but nothing ever materialised. It has no intention of investing in infrastructure, indeed it has sold it’s stake in a York fibre to the premise (FTTP) joint-venture to TalkTalk, and claims this means it will see a return on investment sooner. 

“It allows us to leverage the infrastructure we have in place,” said McGowan, citing customer service and its core fibre network as examples. “We [expect] high return on capital when building the core network rather than the radio network.” 

Sky also has 20,000 Wi-Fi hotspots thanks to its purchase of the The Cloud  in 2011. Both BT and Virgin Media have in the past looked at creating ‘inside out’ networks that offload cellular traffic onto Wi-Fi networks, but McGowan would not be drawn into any discussion about a potential bid for spectrum. 

“We have a deal with Telefonica and we’re very happy with that,” she stated. 

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