MVNE & PortaOne
The African mobile economy is growing fast – and PortaOne customers can be a part of it. Learn how we helped South Africa’s MVNE build the right foundation to expand its MVNO portfolio across this exciting and competitive digital communications market
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Some of the best innovations that we see at PortaOne happen when our clients become our partners. MVNE, a South Africa-based Mobile Virtual Network Enabler (both in name and purpose), has long provided complete business support and technology infrastructure to companies across the African continent that want to offer mobile services and campaigns, such as SIM card packages, streaming video, automated SMS, IoT products, and e-commerce. Now MVNE plans to expand – fast – and they wanted a reliable, flexible partner to help them build the right foundation for growth.

Africa is a mobile-first market – in fact, it has the highest demand for mobile in the world – and to compete and achieve market strength, it is critical for MVNE to rapidly scale up its portfolio of businesses across all its regions. To accomplish this, the company needed to prepare itself to onboard and roll out a series of innovative, niche-market MVNOs – for example, a bonus phone service package that can be delivered by a bank, a retailer, or even a local government. 

Among these planned launches are a number of tightly focused MVNOs that, in a typical set-up, might not produce enough revenue on their own to justify the cost and resource demands of a complete billing and charging platform installation. But the size of MVNE’s portfolio vision was a solution in itself – if, that is, it could secure a platform flexible enough to allow these diverse providers to share a business software environment while still serving their individual and unique operational and regional requirements. 

That’s why MVNE came to PortaOne as a collaborative partner. Read on to find out how we worked together to achieve this goal – and how these innovations are now set to benefit the entire MVNO industry in Africa.

A Matter of Size

Before discovering PortaOne, MVNE had been struggling with a billing and charging platform that could not provide the flexibility needed for onboarding and rolling out so many small and unique mobile services: each required a completely different set-up in terms of what it sells, how it’s sold, how the service is charged, and what kinds of taxes and regulations exist in the country the services are being delivered in. The old software they were using would have required a separate environment for most of the planned MVNOs in the lineup, ensuring that MVNE would never see profit from them. Meanwhile, less robust solutions were not an option, as some of those MVNOs were actually large enough to require their own platform environment.

In other words, MVNE needed a billing and charging platform that could do three things at once: 

  • Support platform partitioning for a range of diverse and independent MVNOs 
  • Allow each MVNO to be set up with unique parameters, even when hosted on a partitioned platform environment
  • And, also allow the larger MVNOs to be hosted on their own environment

It was a big ask. But PortaBilling was more than up for the task.

All-in-One for MVNE

PortaBilling from PortaOne is reliable, flexible, easily customizable, has the capability to support multiple “virtual environments” (partitions) within a single installation, and – most importantly – will allow all of those environments to run with the unique charging, service delivery, and legislative parameters that each individual MVNO business requires. Even better, the system can support these partitioned virtual environments with minimal efforts from the hosting operator.

Needless to say, this was not an instant solution. The approach that MVNE and PortaOne took together was to first build an effective foundation for one, single micro-business – namely, Bonsella Mobile, a digital platform that enables multi-store mobile rewards programs for retail brands – and then to leverage that solid foundation to rapidly roll out more businesses. 

As always, PortaOne began this development process with our discovery phase. This is an in-depth research and communication process in which we get to know:

  • The project scope (and the real pains the company is facing)
  • The company’s existing technologies
  • All of the internal and external systems that will need to be integrated
  • All of the needs that will have to be brought into the scope
  • All of the technical requirements and expertise that are available and that will need to be found
  • As many of the potential challenges and risks that we can identify

To help MVNE prepare to release both Bonsella Mobile and all the future MVNO services to come, this phase involved looking at the types of services that the MVNE wanted to offer – voice, SMS, data, P2A/A2P, and so on – and understanding the pricing and billing models they intended to use. Our PortaOne team also examined the existing network infrastructure that MVNE had in place to ensure that any new systems and services could be integrated seamlessly. 

During this discovery phase, our team established that PortaOne would be capable of doing 80-90% of what MVNE needed for their vision, including how the charging rules should be set up and how the first suite of MVNOs would need to be provisioned and configured. Naturally, there were a few gaps. For some, a simple workaround solved the issue. For others, PortaOne scheduled new features into our 7-week release cycle. 

The Architecting

Once we had our “game plan,” PortaOne then created a detailed blueprint of the entire MVNE system, including subscriber management, billing, and an integration that allowed for the online charging of packages that included special social media bundles. 

This phase involved developing and customizing the different software components and integrating them into MVNE’s existing system, followed by rigorous testing. As part of our partnership, MVNE also did a lot of the necessary development work on their own – for example, rather than using PortaOne Workflows to integrate their systems into the MNO network infrastructure as we traditionally suggest, MVNE opted to independently integrate a set of out-of-the-box, MNO-specific provisioning workflows from an outside provider. 

Finally, PortaOne conducted more testing to ensure the entire system was functioning correctly. 

A Foundation for Success

The project had several tangible results for both MVNE and PortaOne. First and foremost, PortaBilling was able to provide MVNE with a flexible, powerful, and affordable platform that will meet the needs of all of the digital communication services waiting to be released in the company’s strategic plan. With the foundation we built together for Bonsella Mobile, MVNE is now positioned to roll out dozens of innovative, reliable, and profitable MVNOs at breakneck speed. 

Another key result of the project was the development of a truly collaborative partnership between MVNE and PortaOne. Unlike the usual vendor-customer relationship, MVNE was not interested in simply having PortaOne create their BSS platform and train them on how to use it. Given MVNE’s direct management and responsibility over a wide range of companies, they needed a deeper understanding of their PortaOne product than a typical CSP might need. By learning to adapt the PortaBilling platform themselves, including integrations, configurations, and troubleshooting, they can now serve as the first line of response for the MVNO brands in their portfolio. This required both parties to learn from each other in a peer-to-peer way. 

As an added benefit, this intensive learning has now resulted in a pilot training program that can help future MVNOs that need or want a higher level of development independence to gain a more in-depth level of knowledge about PortaBilling and PortaSwitch

Finally, the partnership between MVNE and PortaOne has established a strong foundation for future collaboration. With the modular and flexible design of PortaBilling, MVNE can continue to adapt and develop its digital communication services portfolio, safe in the knowledge that PortaOne can provide the necessary support and solutions as needed.

Creating a Limitless Future for MVNOs

With this partnership, both PortaOne and MVNE are well positioned to be leaders in the massive expansion of mobile capabilities. MVNE has the knowledge and tools it needs to conduct rapid, low-risk tests of new products and services, and PortaOne has a growing family of diverse MVNOs to drive the addition of more mobile capabilities for future releases of our platforms – whether that’s more flexibility for pre-paid top-ups, or whatever the market demands next. That benefits all of our present and future customers that are looking to expand their mobile capabilities, regardless of size or sector.

If you are looking for a communications services platform that can work with you to meet your unique needs – however big or small – get in touch with the PortaOne team. We would love to help you bring your ideas and ambitions to life.

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