iiNet plans revamped mobile offering

iiNet has unveiled plans to move “beyond” the mobile virtual network operator model, consolidating existing carrier arrangements and deploying infrastructure to lower costs and differentiate its mobile voice services.

The service provider has 45,000 mobile subscribers among its customer base, largely on the Optus and Vodafone networks but rebadged as iiNet or one of its acquired brands.

Though these telco contracts would continue for existing customers, iiNet chief technology officer Greg Bader told iTnews the ISP wanted to leverage its core network and other infrastructure to provide a different offering.

“The commercial advantage I have in ADSL and VoIP I don’t have in mobile today,” he said.

The company would look to move “beyond MVNO”, Bader said, by following a similar trajectory to its DSLAM rollout over Telstra’s copper network.

“We build up a customer base via wholesale and we look to deploy our own infrastructure to either reduce the costs of operating or, just as importantly, add in differentiators.”

This would include integrating iiNet’s existing voice over IP networks, content and international internet links.

The company has also contemplated additional infrastructure such as back-end intelligence to provide more transparent roaming between fixed and mobile networks, off the back of an existing mobile network.

Though Bader would not share too many details on iiNet’s plans, he said some ideas revolved around products current mobile players had yet to broach for customers as well as options “that haven’t been invented yet”.

The plan would include consolidating its mobile infrastructure contracts with either Optus and Vodafone, ending more than 12 months of negotiations with both carriers.

The contracts, to be signed in the next two months, would likely lock out Telstra, which plans to wholesale a part of its Next G network from next year.

It is believed iiNet has continued talks with Telstra over the potential to resell its network but did not see sufficient potential for integration of business systems.

The competing carriers, he said, still had the potential to offer sufficient coverage and service for iiNet’s potential customer base, particularly due to Vodafone’s network upgrade plans.

Number two

iiNet’s increasing moves into the mobile space come as part of the company’s stated bid to sell an average of three products to customers by 2014, bundled with other offerings including DSL, managed business service, VoIP or its fetchTV IPTV offering.

It heavily advertises its current market position as number two behind Telstra in DSL coverage but has plans to expand the moniker to other market segments – at Optus’ expense.

“The voice stuff is interesting – quite clearly, we intend to be around for a long time and we would like to be number two in this country,” Bader said.

“We don’t believe it’s possible to do that without some mobile offering.”

The company’s core brand has to date relied on SIM-only plans to build its mobile customer base.

However, last week iiNet launched mobile handset bundling for small business customers.

iiNet would likely provide handset bundles to consumers in the future.

However, ploys so far had been experiments in the economics of handset bundling and the requirements of customer support in the field, according to Bader.

“We want to be the clear choice other than the incumbent in this country so we need to have a mobile product or solution,” he said.

“We don’t have the cost advantages of network ownership so we need to play with the cards we’ve got.”

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