Three is looking to the healthcare sector, CCTV and digital signage to kickstart growth in its burgeoning wholesale offer.
The operator has compared it to the early days of its consumer proposition, which has seen considerable growth during the past couple of years. Three has recently signed deals with M2M partner Arkessa for it to supply data for CCTV cameras, number plate recognition technology and mobile healthcare.
Director of wholesale Lynda Burton said the business has moved from treating wholesale like a secondary area to it being a key focus of the operator’s plans for growth. She said the offer was currently in a ‘brand building’ mode, contacting potential partners about opportunities. She said: ‘Large international brands may not have heard of Three. That means we are getting out and talking to journalists, companies, systems integrators and devices manufacturers. Once they are aware of us they can see we can keep up with a number of opportunities that we want to pursue.’
She accepted Three does not have the same level of visibility in this area as rivals O2 or Vodafone. She said: ‘Our goal is to remain lean and flat – it’s our key differentiation. We are very clear in our role in the wholesale market and that’s to provide the best network. That’s our core functionality – we are not getting into white label services and running marketing for another company. We’re not trying to boil the ocean.’
While not closing the door entirely to returning to the indirect channel, which it exited last year, Burton said the key focus was working with partners to sign M2M or MVNO deals. She said: ‘What we see is big chunks of the market that would be better served by the wholesale sector. In M2M, we see a lot of specialised segmentations in terms of technology or relationships. Our strategy is very different to someone like Vodafone, whose team is much bigger. We are not going to go directly into segments but work in partnerships to drive innovation and growth.’
Burton said healthcare is one area that it hopes to capitalise on. She said: The government is trying to get people out of hospital as quickly as possible. Having devices that can monitor a patient’s vital signs and sends information back to doctors remotely would be useful. The potential efficiency gains are extraordinary.’
Another area is embedded SIMs in devices. She said only 20% of 3G enabled iPads actually connect to mobile data. ‘The current proposition isn’t right.’
Burton said that the business was starting to benefit from the work started three years ago when she took on the wholesale part of the operator. She said the moment Gamma Telecom moved its MVNO service away from the operator in 2010 to Vodafone was a ‘moment of truth’. She said: ‘We realised this wasn’t something you could do on the side. It could be very damaging to the brand and unless we took it seriously, we were not setting our partners up for success.’
She refused to give targets for how much revenue the wholesale business could generate but said it will be built to become a material part of Three’s business. She said: ‘This is a long term strategy. We have got the building blocks in place and this won’t be a desperate rush for volume. It’s about getting the right partners and doing it one step at a time.'
Author: Graeme Neill