MVNOs Streamline with BREW

By Brian Dolan In the highly competitive mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) sector every advantage goes a long way. MVNO Amp’d Mobile selected the BREW platform because it offers an end-to-end solution that provides a catalog of content, plus payment services and reconciliation with developers. “When you are the carrier, you own 100 percent of the problem if a customer has an issue with their mobile phone,” says Mike McSherry, Amp’d senior vice president, emerging technologies. “And with BREW, an application doesn’t get on the phone unless it has been pre-approved by Qualcomm for the BREW platform. If a customer is using a phone running on the JAVA platform, and they realize that their phone is not working, it could be difficult to resolve if the problem came from a third party application,” McSherry says. “There’s more of a vetting process with BREW applications, and that has a great benefit to carriers, because of the reduced care costs associated with it.” While some criticize the BREW platform for being too “closed,” MVNOs such as Amp’d note that the BREW ecosystem brings a level of stability desirable to a budding mobile phone operator, virtual or otherwise. However, since it does not allow third-party applications, it also must offer a big portfolio of content and applications. End-to end-solution “The big benefit for us--besides the fact that BREW is a holistic platform--is that it enabled us to quickly get an impressive catalog of content to offer to our subscribers,” says Juha Christensen, CEO of Sonopia. “Qualcomm’s ability to work as a hub between the tens of thousands of developers and companies with good content, as well as carriers like us and eventually consumers—makes for a very strong platform.” Sonopia, which is a mobile virtual network enabler (MVNE), aims to provide individuals and organizations with the tools to create their own branded mobile phone service and build community features associated with it. Because of this, the company needs a large swath of content and tools at the ready. If anyone can become an MVNO through Sonopia, the MVNE needs to be sure it can handle a wide variety of requests. “We are a micro-segmented carrier looking to serve all these brands which each have an individualized conversation,” Christensen says. “We want to help these brands and organizations narrow the content choices they plan on offering to their constituents. That’s why Qualcomm worked with us to modify their catalog of BREW-approved content to create catalogs that are more relevant to any given new Sonopia user. Rather than millions of content titles, they’ll only have to look through hundreds.” Custom UI A complete platform like BREW also ensures each of the working parts coalesce, according to McSherry. The MVNO has banked on compelling content offerings from MTV and other brands targeting the young adult market, but the carrier also recognizes their users will want to find their own content on the mobile Internet. “We did our entire [user-interface] as a BREW application, while most of the other carriers are still living in a WAP environment,” McSherry says. “Those aren’t nearly as interesting or responsive as our BREW interface, because we customized our browser from the standard BREW mobile shopping catalog. We took the source code and recreated our UI on top to make it much more graphically rich. Now we manage subscriptions at the UI level, which you don’t see in the standard catalog.” The user interface also offers sophisticated caching. “We’re integrating other services like mobile advertising: You can pull a video down within the interface, right into the shopping catalog,” McSherry says. “As a BREW app you can even have animation for transitions, which you can’t do with WAP.” During the past year, Amp’d took its UI and product catalog to Canada, making it the first BREW ambassador for the country, according to McSherry. Amp’d and its hybrid MVNO approach to Canada also marked a shift in the company’s expansion plans: The company plans on taking its BREW-based MVNO offerings to Asia next. In light of recent events, however, some of those plans could be in jeopardy. Earlier this month, Amp’d filed for bankruptcy protection after Verizon Wireless declared default on the MVNO’s wholesale agreement, demanding a $4.5 million payment within ten days.