Sprint launches mobile data MVNO aimed at hospitality, retail industries

Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) is launching a new service that will allow hotels, retailers and other businesses to become mobile broadband MVNOs of its CDMA network and Clearwire's (NASDAQ:CLWR) mobile WiMAX network.

The new service, dubbed "Mobile Broadband on Demand," allows companies to sell or rent mobile hotspot or USB modem devices to customers. Sprint said customers of the product do not need to have previous wireless experience or wireless support systems. Sprint will add support for its LTE network sometime next year. The service is enabled through a partnership with Telespree.

Ben Vos, vice president of wholesale operations at Sprint, said the new program is a continuation of the MVNO strategy Sprint launched this summer aimed at allowing any company to become an MVNO. In an interview with FierceWireless, he said that the new service will make it simpler, easier and more cost effective for wholesale customers to get into the wireless market. "We are hopeful and expectant that we can enable a lot of partners--some of whom have not had mobile experience in the past--to allow them to generate new revenue that they didn't have before," he said.

At the start Sprint will offer a handful of Novatel-made MiFi devices that will be white-labeled for the MVNO. There will also be Sprint-branded USB modems that MVNOs can sell depending upon their relationship with Sprint.

According to Sprint, once end-user customers get the devices they will be directed to an MVNO-branded Web portal where they can sign up for service using a variety of payment methods. The MVNO can bill for the service based on the amount of time an end-user accesses the service or the amount of data they use.

Sprint noted that its MVNO customers will be able to tweak the service in order to promote their own offerings, much like Wi-Fi vendors currently do. For example, Sprint's MVNO customers can allow end-users to access specific websites for free, or can offer sponsored browsing. When subscribers run out of time or data, they are re-directed back to the Web portal to purchase more service. Sprint said a downloadable data meter enables subscribers to track real-time data usage and receive alerts. 

MVNOS can use a Web site to manage check-out and check-in of devices as well as device history. Users can also purchase devices.

For Sprint, the new model could generate incremental wholesale revenue. However, first the carrier will need to get businesses to buy into the program.

Sprint's Vos said as of now the carrier has not signed up any commercial MVNO customers to the new program. He said the service is targeted at a range of businesses, from car rental agencies to hotels, money-changing kiosks and others involved in the travel industry, as well as companies that sell into small- and medium-sized businesses. "We have made a fair bit of investment in this solution and we believe there is a lot of opportunity here to tap into an expanded array of wholesale partners as well as leverage this for existing wholesale," he said.

Telespree CEO Ellen Schwab said the program can support existing loyalty programs. 

For more:
- see this release

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