MVNOs And Social Networks… Perfect Together Or A Risky Bet?
from the ah,-for-the-kids dept
Mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs), this new crop of mobile phone operators who don’t have their own network but simply piggyback on the networks of established providers, have been getting a lot of buzz lately for filling in “niches.” However, it seems like just about every one is targeting the same “niche”: young people (which, come to think of it, really doesn’t seem that nichey). While it seemed like these MVNOs had the potential to shake up the market, so far they’ve failed to live up to expectations. Amp’d is still working out the kinks of its botched launch. Mobile ESPN, which appears to have assumed its brand alone would make it worth extra money is getting lukewarm reviews from folks like Walt Mossberg (you can only visit websites approved by ESPN? say what?!?). So, now along comes the last of the big hopefuls (though, there are rumors of yet another one), as Helio is finally releasing some details.
Helio was created a year ago out of a partnership between Earthlink and SK Telecom to bring some of the cool phones and services found in South Korea to the US. SK Telecom, obviously, is one of the leading mobile operators in terms of pushing out new devices and services, and has been a tremendous success. That’s part of the reason many people thought Helio had so much potential — even as it’s mostly stayed quiet while others basked in the MVNO hype. Tonight, Helio finally released some of the details of its plan — and it’s a step in the right direction, but still could go much further. The company has two custom-made phones that certainly look funky. They’ve programmed a unique interface which they hope will be easier for people to figure out and use. However, the company also seems to be hyping up the fact that the phones will work directly with MySpace. Clearly, the demographic of MySpace matches with the demographic Helio is targeting. Also, it’s quite nice to see one of these MVNOs focusing much more on the community and how people use their phones to communicate rather than to buy content (Amp’d has pretty much taken the opposite route). However, linking up with MySpace isn’t without risks. As much hype as the site has gotten lately, social networking sites seem to rise and fall as fads fairly quickly. Hitching your marketing wagon directly to the brightest star at the moment could backfire if the timing isn’t right. It also may not be that differentiated. Just yesterday, Verizon Wireless announced its own deal with MySpace. Still, while Helio still hasn’t revealed anything about pricing (other than going against the MVNO standard by not offering pre-paid), it does seem to be doing a lot of things intelligently so far… The real question will be can it stand on its own without MySpace?