Call it MVNO 2.0, to affix a trendy suffix to what will surely be a new wireless business model social networking today took to the air.
Affiliate groups, non-profits, clubs, sports teams and other groups of like-minded people can now form and launch their own MVNO for free via a MySpace-like Web site created by Sonopia Corp.
Officially launching Monday, Sonopia has brokered with Verizon Wireless and Vodafone Group plc for the airtime to pass on to affiliates and will provide the phones and the back office too. All it takes to get into the specialty MVNO biz is about 15 minutes of time spent on the Web site, surfing around the Sonoportal to set up and build a mobile and Web community site or Sonopia for your cause.
Users then can browse the communities and join one if they choose. They receive mobile phone service from that Sonopia and get a profile page and they can connect with others who share their interests, share photos, write mobile blogs and get exclusive content. A percentage of the mobile bill goes back to support whichever cause that particular Sonopia revolves around.
The MVNOs can tailor the services to fit the needs of the user group, too. For instance, one community is called Food to Go, and touts northern California dining in the palm of your hand, offering food news and reviews.
The start-up has nearly $10 million in VC funds to get started, and said Monday that it will be profitable from the first customer, despite having a margin-based business model, thanks to heavy automation and the labor costs in Kiev, Ukraine, where its developers are based. The question remains as to how disruptive the model will be. The do-it-yourself approach may test the mettle of wireless providers that have paid considerably more to get into the game, by throwing open the idea of wireless to the Internet model.
Sonopia Corp. www.sonopia.com
Verizon Wireless www.verizonwireless.com
Vodafone Group plc www.vodafone.com