Saturday, April 27, 2013

Ziggo: piecing together an OTT mobile strategy

Fixed-line operators are looking to (re)enter the mobile market, despite threats from OTT, other competition, regulation and a stretched balance sheet. BT bought spectrum and is now looking for a partner. Virgin Media UK has an MVNO and plans a VoIP app. Ziggo appears to take its own route, involving WiFi, femtocells, an MVNO and a VoIP app. Here's how it may work.
  • WiFi. All customer modems will be opened for use by Ziggo subscribers. It's much like FON (a KPN partner), except Ziggo has a dedicated piece of spectrum reserved for use by fellow Ziggo subs. As a result, the modem owner will not see his (shared) spectrum reduced by strangers.
  • Femtocells. One might think that Ziggo, UPC and the other cablecos could allow each other to place femtocells outside their own footprint in order to reach nationwide coverage. But Ziggo is taking femtocells further and plans to expand the (very limited) footprint of its subscriber modems. It intends to roll-out femtocells to locations outside subscriber homes, possibly lamp posts or anywhere near the existing fiber backbone or backhaul from street cabinets. It now becomes clear why Ziggo bought LTE-2600 spectrum.
  • MVNO. Ziggo already has an MVNO in place, with Vodafone NL. Customers do not need to sign up, but then they won't have full mobility. That would
    require a SIM card (hence subscribing to the MVNO). Ziggo will probably go SIM-only, and possibly data-only, if they manage to create a solid:
  • VoIP app. At the recent Q1 call, management promised a VoIP app for 14H2.
There are plenty of challenges: a saturated mobile market, rolling out femtocells on a large scale, creating seamless handover between WiFi and 3G/4G, doing a stable and customer-friendly VoIP app. And hope that the network supplier (Vodafone) doesn't give in to the temptation to block mobile VoIP, violating Dutch net neutrality rules.

The mobile strategy looks a lot like an instrument to reduce churn. But it also has the potential to grow into a business and a new revenue stream. For this to happen, subscribers will actually need to join the MVNO (hence creating a quad play, mostly).

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