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Foreign carriers expand reach to US via Sprint Wholesale Partnership
30 June 2011
International wireless carriers don’t need to lose their customers when they move to, work, or study in the US, say senior Sprint executives: Sprint’s Global Wholesale Solutions can help retain customers and build revenue. Co-sponsored feature: Sprint
Bill Esrey: Consumers are incredibly savvy when it comes to
mobile devices. International carriers can either provide that
prepaid wireless alternative or they can take their chance at
getting the roaming revenue
Leading carrier Sprint is well known and recognized as a longstanding global wholesale services provider to the worlds wireline operators. Sprint is now providing foreign mobile operators a means to continue to give their customers an almost seamless service when visiting or working in the US.
Sprint is already the premiere provider of network services to multiple mobile virtual network operators (MVNO) based in the US. A prime example is Virgin Mobile USA, which began selling its US services in 2002 as an MVNO on the Sprint network, seven years before being acquired by Sprint.
Sprint is expanding existing relationships by adding MVNO services for operators from Asia, Europe, Latin America and other parts of the world, enabling mobile service providers in those countries to retain valuable customer relationships and offering familiarity when consumers are working, studying or on holiday in the US.
Providing our customers with valuable wireless services that reach beyond traditional relationships of providing core voice and IP services is an exciting way for our international customers to extend their brand and find new market opportunities, says Bill Esrey, vice president of Sprint Global Wholesale Solutions, the portion of the company that works closely with hundreds of carriers from around the world to supply them with services into and out of the US.
Existing wireline partners, who work with Sprint to deliver traditional services to customers US premises, are now adding a wireless service as well, he says.
Sprint has added MVNO services to Japanese operator KDDI, a long-time Sprint customer, whose existing unit KDDI America provides services aimed at people visiting the US from Japan.
As our relationship with KDDI evolved, we saw an opportunity to work together on a wireless offering, going beyond the existing wholesale relationship, says Esrey. Thats when the idea for a KDDI-branded MVNO emerged as a way for the Japanese operator to maintain its relationship with customers when they leave Japan.
Customers have a decision point when they leave their home country, adds Rick Boyd, marketing manager at Sprint Wholesale. When consumers visit the US for an extended period of time they look for more economical wireless alternatives to their existing plans roaming service or they just use prepaid cards.
There are a number of segments that represent excellent international MVNO opportunities: foreign multinational companies that transfer their executives to the US for extended periods; business people travelling to the US for relatively short visits; and students and private vacationers. Individuals in each of these groups will often need a mobile phone with a US number and US rates.
All of these visitors have an existing relationship with a mobile operator in their home country, and an MVNO is a great opportunity to build on that relationship even when they are abroad. Its a meaningful differentiator for operators and allows travellers to stay connected to home-based brands while abroad, says Esrey.
The customer relationship is enhanced by the fact that the phones or data cards that visitors use when they are in the US are branded with the name of their home network. More than that, KDDI customers, for example, use phones with Japanese characters and language support, notes Boyd. Thats different from most phones in the US, which are typically English and Spanish.
Customers can even buy their phones before they leave home so they can land in the US with a working phone, turn it on and make calls.
What are the revenue implications of an MVNO service? Consumers are incredibly savvy when it comes to mobile devices and will look for alternatives to paying roaming amounts. International carriers can either provide that prepaid wireless alternative or they can take their chance at getting the roaming revenue, says Esrey.
A visitor who expects to be in the US for more than a few weeks will probably acquire a local phone anyway to avoid roaming charges when making and accepting calls. And thats where an MVNO service carrying a familiar brand will have the advantage. Sprint provides the service to the foreign carrier at a wholesale rate; the foreign carrier sets the pricing structure at which it sells services to the customers.
Sprint is now also offering value-added marketing services to carriers in support of the growth of their business. We work collaboratively with our partners so they can develop an executable marketing strategy to penetrate markets and areas of the US where there are significant expatriate populations, says Boyd.
This new market is attractive to foreign operators in the US. More and more, carriers around the world are looking for ways to build new business when their own domestic market becomes saturated, says Esrey. By expanding outside of their home market into the US, operators can target customers who have an affinity for their brand, but were previously outside of their service areas.
We can present a holistic solution through a wholesale model thats already in place, says Boyd. Sprint is working with carriers of all sizes from all over the world with a similar approach. Providing its network for the MVNO as well as access to devices, back office support, and provisioning systems.
Foreign carriers can also offer their expatriate customers in the US a set of unique applications via Sprints open network architecture. For example, one partner offers its customers a music service, Esrey notes. Partners can offer specialized content in the same way that cable TV operators in the US can offer TV-related content to their mobile customers via their MVNO services on Sprint. Operators need a differentiator and thats where we see most success.
And its not just voice. Sprint was the first US wireless carrier to launch and market a high-speed 4G mobile broadband network which now reaches 71 US cities, covering 130 million people. Sprint 4G is Americas favourite 4G network*, offering speeds that are up to 10 times faster than 3G.
Global carriers can offer 3G/4G data cards to their customers to provide a wireless broadband solution. Foreign multinational companies using their home carrier on a Sprint MVNO will buy 30-40 data cards for their employees or they have the ability to purchase a day pass for select devices, says Boyd.
But pretty soon 4G services to international MVNOs will be expanded. Were about to launch a 3G/4G Android handset for the wholesale market, says Esrey. So a foreign visitor to the US will be able get voice and data on a single 3G/4G handset through Sprints network, while keeping the relationship with the customers carrier back home.
We want to enable our MVNOs, says Boyd. Were putting many resources into this space. Our mission is to expand our relationship with international carriers, to help them grow their business and to grow our partners revenue and profitability. GTB
Learn more about Sprint Wholesale Solutions at www.sprint.com/wholesale
* Disclosure: Americas favourite 4G claim: based on number of Sprint 4G subscribers versus those on other wireless 4G (WiMax and LTE) networks in the US. Coverage not available everywhere. Up to 10x faster claim: based on download speed comparison of Sprint 3G average speeds (600 kilobits a second to 1.4 megabits a second) versus Sprint 4G average speeds (3-6 megabits a second). Actual speeds may vary by plan or based on other factors.