ZACT founder ItsOn starts international expansion for cloud-based services

U.S.-based ItsOn, which provides a cloud-based service and marketing platform for mobile operators, is launching its service internationally this year after winning deals with operators in the Middle East and South America.

According to Robert Oberhofer, ItsOn's vice president of product marketing, the company is in talks with operators in a number of markets, with a focus on those telcos that are "serious about digital transformation," he added.

Established around six years ago, ItsOn has developed a platform that enables operators to try out new product and service ideas; launch new and contextually relevant services; test marketing tactics; and offer self-service tools for subscribers.

The company also has an interesting story to back up its marketing strategy. In 2014, it actually established a mobile virtual network operator called ZACT on Sprint's network as a proof of concept for the new platform, and to see if the technology made sense.

"They had amazing success," commented Rick Hartwig, vice president of corporate marketing. Hartwig said the prepaid service was picked up by retailer Walmart, and eventually acquired by Sprint. ZACT has now been incorporated into Virgin Mobile, which became the launch customer for the ItsOn platform.

However, in January Sprint abandoned its Virgin Mobile Custom prepaid brand but decided to stick with the ItsOn cloud technology behind that brand and its retail partnership with Walmart. Sprint launched Virgin Mobile Custom in August 2014 exclusively through Walmart, but found that consumers were confused about their rate plans.

Oberhofer noted that ItsOn does not plan to repeat the ZACT experiment: "It's not in our DNA," he said. The company's goal is to help existing operators become more agile as they implement their digital transformation strategies.

ItsOn finds that mobile operator CMOs tend to be highly receptive to the technology, while CIOs can be more sceptical. This is primarily because the adoption of the platform requires a complete shift in mindset about how to launch and manage services.

"There is a traditional way of buying solutions," said Oberhofer. "We don't fit in with the way they are used to."

However, if mobile operators are to succeed in becoming more agile players that continue to have relevance in future, non-traditional thinking is clearly required.

"We want to be a value-added service for digital transformation," said Oberhofer. "We want to be part of the digital process."

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