Applying the ‘light and thick’ formula


6 May 2016

How much data do mobile users consume, and how are they consuming it? What mobile plans are they buying on the web site? When they click on certain links, what are they likely to end up buying?

Telcos have been mining these insights for many years but Circles.Life, the newest telco in town, believes that the ability to translate them quickly into service offerings will enable it to succeed where other mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) have failed.  

Underpinning this confidence is a proprietary digital telco platform that the company has built to enable “better customisation of services, on-demand control and real-time usage monitoring, all designed to improve the digital experience of the customer”.

Speaking at the official launch of services on 5 May, Circles.Line co-founder and director Rameez Ansar described the company as the “first digital telco in Singapore”.

It will have no physical service outlets. Instead, the amount of data, minutes, SMS and add-ons, choice of phones, the payment method and plan will be delivered online and through the users’ mobiles.

The company is targeting customers who are already living in the data world. “These customers do not call or SMS. They use Whatsapp, SnapChat and Instagram,” said Rameez. “And they are too diverse to be put into a bundle. They want power and greater control over what they get from their telco.”

As an MVNO, Circles.Life takes an “asset-light” approach that allows it to focus on these matters - what the users want, the customer experience, and the services layer.

Under a partnership with M1, it makes use of M1’s Radio Access Network, so it does not have to roll out the full infrastructure. Instead, it has invested in building a digital telco platform to give it a competitive advantage.

This makes it a “thick MVNO”, said Adeel Najam, also a co-founder and the director in charge of developing product and pricing strategies.

The digital telco platform comprises an intelligent network layer and a billing platform, and on top of this sits the customer-facing apps and web site. All these are hosted in a private cloud which ensures scalability and redundancy, said Adeel.

While these components enable the telco to introduce new products and services rapidly, the question of what services to introduce is addressed by the analytics piece.

“We use data analytics to understand the consumer and focus on that to build our product differentiators,” said Rameez.

For example, with real-time insights into the individual customer’s data usage, Circles.Life is able to make additional data available instantly if the user requires it. This has been incorporated into its service offerings as a feature called Boost. “We watch out for your data usage and we do not wait for you to reach the limit before giving you the option to buy more data.”

Visibility into data usage also enables the company to introduce Bonus Data which turns the traditional mobile phone contract on its head. Instead of having contracts and penalties, users are rewarded with data –500MB to 4Gb of it - for staying longer with the telco, or when they activate an app or recommend a friend.

The analytics engine also flagged out the fact that people are using a lot of Whatsapp. In fact, more people use Whatsapp for calling compared with traditional phone lines, said Adeel, and so unlimited Whatsapp has been included in the company’s base plan, allowing customers to make use of the messaging app without eating into their data limits.

If the digital telco platform proves itself in Singapore, there are plans to launch services in other markets, starting with Southeast Asia. In line with its focus on data-savvy customers, it will target countries with a good concentration of data users and good 4G coverage, said Rameez.