Chief Innovation Officer, Lycamobile: “Development of key applications such as WhatsApp and VoLTE already driving data usage”

Vish Madhugiri

Lycamobile is an MVNO that is really going places. Its customers certainly are – all over the world in fact, with the company offering low cost calls in Europe, Asia and now the US. 2014 is certainly set to be a big year for it. Ahead of the 4th annual LTE MENA conference, taking place on the 11th-13th May 2014 at the Conrad, Dubai, UAE, we speak to Vishwanath Madhugiri, Chief Innovation Officer who is speaking on the subject of innovative services as revenue stream for operators on Day One of the LTE MENA conference. Madhugiri explains how even though data usage however is only at a nascent stage. working with Lycamobile gives MNOs access to customers in ethnic communities for which they would otherwise not be able to cater. 

Please tell me more about Lycamobile and what makes it unique?

Founded in 2006, Lycamobile is the solution for those who want to connect back home. Currently providing low-cost high-quality international calls to over 30 million customers across 17 countries, Lycamobile’s sheer span, sharp focus on customer service and innovative business model has seen us outgrow our competition; achieving greater coverage of the European population than any other network operator. A Mobile Virtual Network Operator initially developed for the expatriate communities in Europe; Lycamobile has fast become a global brand synonymous with connecting customers with their loved ones across oceans, borders and networks at the cheapest possible price. This is what makes us unique.

You’ve recently launched as an MVNO in Italy? Why did you take this step and do you have plans to extend this to other locations?

In the seven years since the business was founded, our objective and strategy has been to become the largest low-cost international call provider by geography in the world. Over the past 18 months we have invested heavily in expanding our geographical coverage. Italy happens to be our latest launch as a full MVNO. The addition of Germany to our portfolio in 2012 ensured that we have greater coverage of the European market than any other mobile operator. A subsequent move into Ireland and Portugal served to embed our footprint across Europe and extend the service to over 80 per cent of the EU population. Perhaps most significantly, 2013 saw us activate our biggest market launch to date: introducing the service to the US with the promise to bring an unparalleled level of cost and quality of service to American consumers. Set to double our business revenue over the next financial year, Lycamobile USA launched in March as the country’s first full MVNO, operational in 18 states with plans to expand this to 25 states in 18 months. We are now the largest low-cost international call provider by geography in the world. We have identified eight further territories in which we would like to be operating by February 2014 to include Canada and markets in Latin America and Asia. A 5,000 strong global team in February 2013 celebrated reaching the target of €1 billion turnover for 2012/2013. We fully expect these plans to give rise to the doubling of this figure by year end 2014.

You’ve been based primarily around voice rather than data – where does LTE/4G fit into your strategy?

The primary business focus of Lycamobile in all the countries that we operate in is ethnic communities making and receiving International telephone calls. Voice accounts for almost 90 per cent of the Lycamobile mobile traffic presently. However Lycamobile foresees the focus changing rapidly in the next few years driven by more affordable data pricing, faster data-access speeds and the availability of data focused devises. Development of key user-friendly applications such as WhatsApp and VoLTE are already driving data usage growth in the Lycamobile communities and in line with this, the Lycamobile R&D teams have already developed apps to enhance the data-usage experience of the Lycamobile customer. The Lycamobile network, in line with all the other major mobile networks in Europe and the rest of the world is LTE enabled and ready to embrace this exciting new technology.

The 4th annual LTE MENA conference is taking place on the 11th-13th May 2014 at the Conrad, Dubai, UAE. Click here to find out more about the event.

How can working with you benefit operators?

Lycamobile specialises in addressing ethnic communities and other groups that have specific niche, individual and unique requirements. Many of these communities and groups fall outside the standard marketing focus of the traditional MNOs, making any business that the communities and groups might bring to the MNOs erratic, unsustainable and with high churn rates. Lycamobile, through our enhanced community programs and marketing expertise are able to offer services tailored to fit the communities’ and groups’ specific needs.

The benefit to the MNO is threefold:

1. The MNO gains the ethnic customers that it could not have reached on its network.
2. Lycamobile effectively converts a lumpy and erratic retail revenue stream into a committed wholesale revenue
3. Lycamobile accepts all the risks associated with this churn, thereby reducing the churn KPIs of the host MNO

How will the EU move to eliminate roaming charges impact your future direction?

Lycamobile generates a large amount of traffic that includes roaming traffic in and out of all the 17 countries in which we currently operate. As a key player and the largest ethnic MVNO in a majority of these countries, Lycamobile has a sound strategy with which to factor in these changes. We respect the regulatory environment and fully embrace changes aimed at reducing prices and therefore benefiting our customers.

Why is the LTE MENA conference an important date in your diary?

We are observing exponential innovation and growth in the mobile broadband wireless industry, and LTE MENA is the most important dedicated LTE event in the Middle East. With Lycamobile being a global MVNO and with my background in interdisciplinary innovation across industries, this is a crucial industry forum to showcase Lycamobile’s achievements, to network with industry peers and important stakeholders and to absorb the latest trends.

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