Not So Easy For EasyMobile?
By Mike Masnick, Mon May 09 22:00:00 GMT 2005

When easyGroup launched easyMobile, the idea was to keep costs low by selling just SIMs, rather than handsets. So far, that plan has gotten off to a slow start.

EasyGroup's easyMobile offering received plenty of attention when it announced that it's plan to offer an MVNO would focus on making use of existing handsets by just selling a SIM card that customers could place in the handsets they already owned. This would save easyMobile from the trouble of having to deal with handset makers or marketing different phones. The bet was that most potential customers already had a phone from somewhere else, and they would therefore be happy not to buy another phone.

Of course, at the time, it was also becoming clear that the MVNO market wasn't quite the slam dunk that many were predicting. EasyMobile was announced just as the details were coming out about Virgin Mobile's problems in the UK, suggesting the key player in the MVNO space was finding the market a lot more difficult than many had believed. Adding the education campaign necessary in just selling SIMs and easyMobile faced quite a challenge.

In response, easyMobile claims that the estimated 5,000 subscriber figure is low, though it won't say by how much. An easyMobile spokesperson also claims that the service has only really been available for two weeks, despite what everyone believed was a launch in March (having the CEO say "We are very pleased to launch our service in the UK," seems like pretty damning evidence of a launch back then). Either way, it's becoming clear that easyMobile might not have recognized the marketing challenge in launching yet another MVNO in an already crowded marketplace. The easyGroup set of companies has a strong reputation for marketing, so it's likely that it will figure out something eventually. In the meantime, it seems pretty clear that the company hasn't quite figured out the message it's giving to consumers or how to educate them on the SIM card only concept behind the cheaper service.

Either way, the early struggles should be a warning to the many other companies who are contemplating jumping into the mobile operator market as an MVNO. Without a distinctive competitive advantage, it may be anything but easy.