Otono Networks is growing its little family of branded MVNOs targeted at very specific niches. And once again it's hoping to use self-activating SIM cards as a differentiator.
A Vancouver, British Columbia-based firm whose services reportedly run on T-Mobile's network, Otono recently launched a $39 monthly offering branded Krew Mobile. Krew includes one line for a parent with unlimited nationwide talk, text and data, and two lines for children with talk and text.
The kids' lines can be remotely activated by parents via a text from their own handsets. Those two lines share 30 one-hour blocks of cellular access that can be used for voice and text.
The idea, according to Otono CEO Emir Aboulhosn, is to give kids temporary access to cellular when they can't connect using Wi-Fi, particularly on "phones being used as iPods" because they no longer access cell networks. The service could be ideal for single parents, he said, whose children don't often need cellular access and whose budgets are already stretched thin.
"You just pop in the child SIM from Krew, and now the kids at school have got connectivity," Aboulhosn continued. "If this is a time where they get out of the range of Wi-Fi, mom can go to the kids' accounts and turn it on for one hour. There's cell service for one straight hour."
Krew Mobile was announced in December but launched a pilot service only recently, and with minimal fanfare with basic service. In the next few weeks Otono will add Krew Messaging, enabling the three users to exchange texts with each other for no cost. The company hopes to add a location component to enable parents to track their kids' whereabouts.
The company uses a similar model to offer AlwaysOnline Wireless, a cellular data service for iPad owners, as well as a stand-alone SIM card and roaming offerings for users moving between the U.S. and Canadian borders temporarily. Aboulhosn declined to disclose customer figures, noting that determining such information is difficult when SIMs are constantly being turned on and off, but the company said in early 2013 that it had sold 100,000 SIMs in the first few months after it launched, and that hoped to sell 300,000 by the end of 2013.
The company hopes such narrowly targeted offerings can prove to be a differentiator in a prepaid market where price is often the deciding factor for users.
"We're very much a customer-centric organization," said Aboulhosn. "We don't just try to resell wireless and focus necessarily on the price. We listen to consumers, then we identify and build the product for them."
- see this Otono Networks page
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