In a presentation that could have been entitled, "Can an entire industry change?" Tony Lacavera, the founder of Globalive and Wind Mobile spoke at MaRS about the current (and potential future) of the wireless industry.
But in an industry that is one of the most criticized from a customer service point of view, why would a company try to compete against very established players with deep pockets. The answer is contained in a dramatic slide which showed the veritable duopoly of control of the wireless market between the incumbents Rogers, Telus and Bell. Because of this, Tony made the case that there is a disincentive for the incumbents to be aggressive outside their home territory for risk of retaliation by the other players. Simply stated he believes “…that the root of all or our problems is contained in this slide.”
With a story that many of the audience members could relate to he recounted that when he stared Gloablive in 1998 he needed a cell phone, but he found customer service from the big carriers was lacking. This started a decade-long quest to somehow find a way to bring a customer-centric wireless company to the market. So when Industry Canada set aside wireless spectrum for new entrants for an auction in 2008, he went looking for partners that would provide him the scale to introduce a legitimate challenger to the incumbents. He found that partner in Egypt’s Orascom which is the 9th largest wireless operator in the world.
However, after bidding $445MM and winning spectrum in most of the provinces, the company was put before an ownership review by the federal government. In the first review, both Industry Canada and the Department of Justice approved the ownership structure, but was turned down by the CRTC. After what could only be described as an excruciating delay, the approval to launch was announced on Friday December 11, 2009, clearing the way for the company to begin selling wireless services.
The root of their strategy comes from the thousands of customer suggestions and submissions from their site, wirelesssoapbox.com. Lacavera said that he “talked to so many people and the problem that most of them talk about is the complexity,” of the whole process. “It’s so complicated, it’s like a car lease for 3 years,” Lacavera said, and we “need to make it simple and enjoyable.” To illustrate this, the company recently put together a humorous campaign that pokes fun at the way the incumbents currently sell wireless services.
Lacavera says that taking the complexity out of the business won’t be easy – customer service needs to be at the core of everything the company does. Along with a keen focus on the customer he mentioned a few of the “fun and cool” things they would have at launch including person-to-person mobile top ups; an open mobile application platform and social media and instant messaging integration.
As far as handsets go, Lacavera noted that they will have the “latest Blackberry” devices as well as the same ones which are available on other GSM networks. As for the iPhone, he said that it won’t be available at launch but there is “no reason” why it wouldn’t be available in the future.
In summing up his talk, Lacavera said that Wind Mobile is “in it for the long haul” and has every intention of competing and succeeding in winning business from the incumbent players. As everyone knows, it will be a challenge, but with the right customer focus and strategy the company looks to continuing to challenge the status quo and maybe just push the whole industry to change. And as one audience member later remarked, “It’s about time.”