MVNOs go data only

As featured on TM Forum's the Insider blog

It had to happen. A new style of data-only Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs) is hitting the market and their big gun is data roaming without the roaming surcharges. What happened to voice is now happening to data.

One such operator, UK-based Voaimo, has launched itsGlobalgigservice for customers and travellers in 36 countries. It claims to be the only company to offer genuine value for money data roaming packages with connectivity from country to country without the user having to do anything.

Travellers can stay switched on for just 2 pence per MB - from £20 ($30) per month for 1GB. Plans up to 5GB are offered for those who travel regularly or use large amounts of data. Customers can choose the price and the plan they want and it will work across all countries in the Globalgig network – at home and abroad.

Globalgig offers two methods of connectivity, a supplied hotspot device connecting up to 5 devices simultaneously (mobile phone, laptop and tablet) or the new SIM only option for tablets or 3G devices allowing customers to have their own personal hotspot.

It is able to offer this expanded footprint through a combination of MVNO agreements and special arrangements with MNOs. The clever and proprietary Toolkit technology in the Voiamo SIM not only selects the right IMSI account to use based on its location, but also selects the right network to log on to. Therefore, each network effectively sees the user as local customer.

The effect on mobile operators of technology like this is probably minimal because most data roamers have already been scared off by their own costly experiences or those “bill shock” stories that surface regularly. Efforts to keep roaming rates down, and legislation ensuring data limits are monitored, may be working for European roamers but for the rest of the world it’s still a minefield.

My mobile operator is part of an alliance in Asia that offers all day unlimited data roaming but there is a procedure that must be followed to connect to the partner network before it comes into effect, and I never seem to get it right. Why doesn’t it just happen? How can MVNOs like Globalgig get the smarts into the SIM card so it is recognised immediately in each market yet my fully blown network operator cannot?

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