MVNO ROK Mobile aims to have 1M subs in next 12-15 months

ROK Mobile, the recently launched music-focused MVNO, aims to have 1 million total customers within the next 12-15 months, according to a ROK Chairman and co-founder Jonathan Kendrick. He also said that ROK hopes to land a third U.S. carrier partner by the end of the year.

"We're running on 50 percent of the four largest [U.S.] networks," Kendrick said in an interview with FierceWireless. "We're in negotiations with the third network. We believe by the end of the year ROK Mobile will be on three of the four networks."

Kendrick wouldn't confirm ROK's carrier partners, though according to reports and indications on the company's website, those partners are likely T-Mobile US and Sprint.

ROK is also working with Devicescape to allow ROK customers to access to 20 million hotspots on Devicescape's curated Wi-Fi hotspot network.

And sometime this fall, ROK also plans to expand internationally through a partnership with 3 UK, Kendrick said.

The ROK service went live in the United States on July 4 in an invitation-only test, and last week the company opened up the service to anyone. Customers can sign up for a free 14-day trial of ROK's on-demand and streaming music app for iOS and Android. They can also sign up for the MVNO's wireless service, which offers unlimited voice, texting and data--and streaming music--for $50 per month.

Kendrick declined to say how many customers ROK has signed up so far, but said that the company has "thousands of customers" using the free trial and is rapidly converting them to paying users. As for how ROK will reach its goal of 1 million customers in the next 12-15 months, Kendrick said that "America is changing, as it did with prepaid, and it's getting more used to this method of changing your carrier online rather than having to go into a store."

"For an MVNO to work, you have got to have something that is really compelling to create  stickiness for your customer," Kendrick said. For ROK, that compelling aspect is its streaming music service. ROK has agreements with major and independent music labels to offer a 20-million-song music catalogue. Just like Spotify, ROK users will be able to search for and stream songs, as well as create collections and download music when they do not have a data connection.

Further, ROK worked with Gracenote to develop its own in-house algorithms to tailor customers' music streams based on a mood they select. Customers can even pick a single artist and get music streamed from that artist that suits their mood. "We've developed the latest streaming app," Kendrick said. "Our partners believe it's unique."

Kendrick did confirm that while the service does have a fair-use policy, ROK will not limit customers' music streaming or data access unless their use is excessive, though he declined to say how much usage that would be.

ROK is planning several major announcements in the months ahead:

  • The company plans to add iPhone support later this week.
  • Within the next 30 days, it plans to release a web-based version of its app.
  • Within the next 60-90 days, the company will start selling Monster headphones that use Monster Sound technology to change the sound quality based on the music genre.

ROK Mobile was founded by Kendrick and entrepreneur John Paul DeJoria, who also have several other businesses together. However, the mobile company is separate from ROK Stars and ROK Group of companies. DeJoria is the co-founder of Paul Mitchell hair products and Patron tequila.

Kendrick said ROK is targeting millennials and younger smartphone users and will tailor its marketing to them.

Kendrick said ROK Mobile doesn't have outside investors and there is no pressure to grow immediately. "We're financed by the founders. It doesn't matter how long it takes," he said. "We're not under pressure to deliver on ROI."

For more:
- see this Yahoo Finance article

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Correction, July 21, 2014: This article incorrectly stated that ROK Mobile is part of the ROK Group of companies. ROK Mobile is a separate business entity.

Correction, July 23, 2014: This article incorrectly stated the number of curated Wi-Fi hotspots ROK Mobile customers have access to via a partnership with Devicescape. It is 20 million.