Archive | Interviews

25 May 2015 ~ 13 Comments

Tello interview (part 2)


If you haven’t already seen it, check out the first part of our interview with tello, a new network hoping to shake up the MVNO market.

How much do you know about the ecosystem of the UK mobile phone market? What lessons do you feel will be most useful from your experience in overseas markets and how would you characterise your particular approach over here?

Since our experience in the telecom field is pretty vast, a big part of our database consists of UK customers. We already conducted several market surveys in order to expand our understanding and approach over the UK. Plus, we constantly work to apply our existing knowledge and experience in the complex MVNO market from the UK.

So why in particularly did you choose to work with Hutchison-Whampoa in the UK?

Our criteria for selecting a partner were pretty simple. We were looking for a flexible and reliable partner. We chose Three Mobile because they offer a great quality service at a very competitive pricing. Plus another aspect that played a significant role when selecting the network was their data speed, because we care about future trends and customer needs.

Why do you think so many people are stuck on expensive PAYG plans when there are so many cheap alternatives available now? What’s the main thing holding people back from switching?

The answer to your question lies in the human psychology area and I think can be summed up in a few simple but powerful words like: loyalty, ease of use, convenience.

What matters: price over quality? Why do people choose a more expensive provider when they can switch to a new cheaper one? We think customers are the key, they lead the way, their behavior leads providers to new products, services and ways to do and conduct business. What is 100% true is that a happy customer is a loyal customer.

So the word “stuck” can actually be easily replaced with “happy”.

Still, we think more and more people would be eager to try something new if they’d realize the savings on the long run, or if they’d know that portability is risk-free and it is backed up by OFCOM.

That’s a good way of looking at it! And human psychology is definitely a big part. But where do you see the network in five years?

Our five-year plan definitely revolves around the word: international expansion. By the end of this year, we’ll launch tello on the US market so our focus and attention is channeled towards this project.

Thanks for your time, Silvana and good luck with the new venture!

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18 May 2015 ~ 12 Comments

Tello interview (part 1)


tello is the latest newcomer to the MVNO party in the UK having launched at the end of October last year. It’s formed through a partnership between KeepCalling and x‑Mobility.

KeepCalling is a US telecoms company with offices in Romania and Bolivia. It started off small back in 2002 reselling phone cards before expanding into monthly mobile plans and international virtual numbers. It now runs over 70 websites turns over about £30 million in yearly profits.

x‑Mobility is a Mobile Virtual Network Aggregator. Basically, what this means is it acts as an intermediary between Three Mobile and the various virtual networks than run on its service.

We got together with their Managing Director, Silvana Tatu to ask a few questions about the new network.

Hi Silvana, thanks for chatting with us. First of all can you explain a little more about the genesis of the company and the ideas behind it?

tello is a brand designed by KeepCalling, a telecom company based in the US, Atlanta who’s been in the telecom business since 2002. From the beginning, KeepCalling’s mission has been to bring family and friends closer together and offer them affordable means of communication.

In 2014, KeepCalling created tello having the same goal in mind: offer a clean, high quality mobile service for UK users with a fair and simple billing mechanism. And top of that, tello was designed as a solution to cover long distance calling needs for expats in the UK, businessmen, or any other person living in the UK who needs a SIM to call abroad, make local calls and surf the web.

And can you tell us a bit about the management team and their background?

KeepCalling’s management team is represented by a group of young and ambitious specialists who gathered a wide experience in the telecom market. The knowledge acquired while doing business in the US for the past 13 years was a very useful prerequisite when deciding to expand our business to the UK.

You seem to have a good understanding of the international/expat market. How are you positioning your offerings to suit these customers best and how true is it that you’re a specialist network for international mobile use?

It’s true that we cater our services and offers to meet our customers’ needs. What’s unique about us and what differentiates us from others is that we really put our customers, their traditions, their culture and language first. Customers can read, visit and buy our products from our websites in their native language. They see familiar images from their homeland, they receive customized emails based on their culture. Basically, their entire online experience from an ad they see on Google, to ordering a product on our website is customized to match their cultural background.

As far as being “a specialist network for international mobile use”, we are honored. It’s true that we have a lot of experience and that we know our customers, so I guess we could say we’re a specialist in this field.

Could you describe the brand in three words?

Friendly, fair, responsive.

Great! But who do you see as your closest competitor?

Our services are addressed to both UK citizens & expats, therefore we have a lot of competition. The UK MVNO market especially is a very competitive one, with many operators offering great deals on international and national calls, text and data. Basically, all UK current providers can be considered our competitors.

So having said that and with our common understanding that the MVNO market is incredibly saturated and competitive, what’s your one USP?

It’s true, as I mentioned before, the UK market is a very competitive one, but competition is good. It pushes your limits and makes you better than you can ever imagined.

Our USP would be “Say hello with your new tello SIM: clean, fair, no hidden fees or overcharges”

What’s the uptake been like so far? What are your growth plans and forecasts?

Even if tello is a new MVNO on the UK market, our online presence is getting stronger and stronger with every day that passes. We are currently analyzing different possibilities to expand our marketing strategy and grow our business.

Stay tuned for the second part of our Tello interview with Silvana coming next Monday…

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23 January 2015 ~ 1 Comment

The Co-operative Mobile interview (part 2)

cooperative mobile

Last time we chatted about Fairphone, solar panels and a Living Wage – what’s the discussion going to include this time? Continuing on from part 1, we bring you the rest of our exclusive interview with The Co-operative Mobile:

You’re running on EE through Transatel. What is Transatel, how does it work and how did you decide to go with EE?

Transatel is an MVNA or “MVNO enabler”. It was awarded “Best MVNA at the MVNO World Congress 2014” in Rome. Transatel have the platform already set up with EE so we are able to launch the service quickly and efficiently.

There are other MVNOs offering better value on their monthly bundles. How can they afford this and why is your offering superior?

We are not convinced that some of the other networks can afford the prices they’re offering. For pay monthly, the market expects handset inclusive bundles however handset costs are high if you do not have the volume of the large networks. We actively promote SIM only at the point of purchase so that customers can choose whether they need buy a handset or not and are transparent about the cost of the handset.

Most of our pay monthly sales are from our existing fixed line base and we offer additional benefits including free calls from landline to mobile and calls between customer mobiles don’t use up bundle minutes.

Our Pay As You Go offer benefits from per second billing and decent rates with adaptable bundles that our customers can tailor for their own requirements saving themselves money and enabling our customers to make the right choice for their usage patterns.

Members will also benefit from the dividend which last financial year amounted 2.5% of purchases (exclusive of VAT).

Our UK based and award winning customer services are always mentioned as one of our assets as per the posts entered here. An example is posted below.

“Once you are a customer, they are happy to review your account at any time and ensure you are on the cheapest tariff for your usage. I am proud to be a customer and would thoroughly recommend them”. Angela Wright, Sheffield 2nd March 2014.

Some good points… What’s your target market and what’s the uptake been like so far? What are the plans to grow?

Our target market is the “ethically conscious consumer”. We were recently ranked “Best Buy” by Ethical Consumer Magazine for mobile, broadband, line rental and e-mail provision, which makes us the choice for this type of consumer concerned with making their money work hard. The ethical share of the retail market is around 5% and sales of ethical products have grown dramatically from £9.6bn in 2009 to £54.4bn in 2012, according to Ethical Consumer Magazine’s statistics.

The pay monthly product was introduced in 2010 and was aimed at our existing customer base on fixed line. This product has been steadily growing as our customers take up the service. We have seen great interest in the Fairphone which has been recently launched.

It is early days still for Pay As You Go and we have some plans for more promotion in the Co-operative stores, which is where 85% of our SIM activations have come from. There will be fixed position display racks within most of the 2,800 stores of the Co-operative Group, giving us precedence on the racks which will be branded with our logo. We also expect uplift on our other services through promotion of our home phone & broadband packages on these racks. These display racks are expected to be installed by December of this year.

Another strand to our plan for growth is to provide a 10% credit on each PAYG top up to all holders of an NUS Extra card. This will be run in conjunction with the 10% discount offered by Co-operative Food, which in terms of revenue, is the best performing of the benefits available to NUS Extra cardholders. This ties in with our sponsorship of the “Student for Co-operation” conference and our support for student ‘housing co-ops’. There are other plans to draw on the benefits of lower rates for texts and calls between Co-operative Mobiles through “Refer a Friend” schemes.

Historically, our customer base has been predominantly older (45 and above). According to a survey conducted on our behalf by Deloitte in 2013 as part of their social innovation pioneers programme, these people have been attracted to us and retained by us due to our customer service excellence. Younger customers are attracted more by product range. We are working hard to improve this aspect of our service as explained earlier, working to bring 4G and to increase data allowances on our mobile network.

Thanks for chatting to us! For our final question, was there a specific point when you realised the network would definitely be a success or has this not come yet?

The pay monthly service has shown steady growth from the beginning so we have always had confidence in it being a viable product. We believe that with the launch of the new display stands in-store, together with NUS Extra and other initiatives that our PAYG service will become profitable and add to our portfolio of successful services Early in the New Year.

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