Was the MVNO model a death sentence for LifeComm?

MobiHealthNews is reporting today Qualcomm pulled the plug on its LifeComm MVNO after failing to raise additional funding for the venture. LifeComm, as you may recall, was created by Qualcomm and several other unnamed partners four years ago as a healthcare-focused MVNO that would deliver specialized applications and devices to help consumers manage their health and employers manage the health of their workers.

Supposedly some of Qualcomm's partners in the venture included medical device manufacturers, and LifeComm even had a deal with an unnamed CDMA carrier to provide the underlying network connectivity. The plan was for Qualcomm to launch the MVNO and then spin it off as a separate company, similar to what Qualcomm is planning to do with MediaFLO USA. However, after four years of planning, LifeComm never made it to commercial launch.

I suspect the problem is the business model, not the mobile healthcare focus. Back in 2005, when the wireless industry was buzzing with new MVNO launches every week (remember Mobile ESPN, Disney Mobile, Amp'd Mobile and Helio?), the idea of a mobile healthcare-centric MVNO made a lot of sense.

But today that business model is no longer relevant--and the acronym MVNO is a dirty word to investors. Carriers have moved beyond the MVNO business model. All the major operators are focused instead on embedding wireless technology into all types of devices (including medical devices) and they are tripping over each other to establish relationships with specialized device companies in hopes of getting those devices on their networks.

I think Qualcomm would be better off connecting operators to its mobile healthcare device and application partners, and letting the carrier handle the device activations, the business model and the distribution path. --Sue

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