HMD Global has launched its own Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) in the UK, using EE’s network to deliver connectivity to Nokia smartphone owners.
From today, customers who buy a new device from Nokia.com will be given the option to take out a monthly tariff that combines unlimited calls and texts with a data allowance.
There is no minimum term on any of the plans but there are introductory three-month bundles that offer a discount on the usual monthly price of £15 a month for 10GB, £18 for 15GB and £25 for 25GB.
HMD believes the growing market for flexible SIM-Only contracts is being driven by a desire for flexibility and that the pandemic has made people less tolerant of poor coverage at home and less attracted to perks like free coffees and cinema tickets.
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There is now a greater willingness to switch operator, and this presents an opportunity for MVNOs, which do not operate their own radio equipment but instead use networks operated by one of the four major operators (EE, O2, Three and Vodafone) to power their services.
“This offers a ‘one stop shop’ for connectivity and handsets and consumers,” said Omar Riaz, HMD Global’s UK General Manager. “The tariffs have the value of a monthly subscription and the flexibility of Pay as you go. We are going to expand and introduce new price points in the future.”
The decision to use EE’s network means HMD Mobile will have the widest 4G coverage and the company has confirmed that EE’s 5G network “is on the roadmap”.
The launch coincides with the release of the Nokia X20 and Nokia G10 handsets and the revamp of Nokia.com. HMD Global believes another trend of the pandemic is the acceleration of direct-to-consumer channels and hopes the ability to offer customers the opportunity to purchase airtime and a new phone at the same time will simplify transactions and build those direct relationships.
A greater proportion of sales through its own online channels would also increase margins, but the company is adamant that it wanted to grow overall sales - not take revenues away from retail partners.
Riaz said sales increased by 62% in 2020, despite the obvious Covid challenges, and that 15% of these “incremental” revenues was coming from Nokia.com.
“it’s not taking revenue from our partners,” he said, explaining the company was using targeted digital marketing to identify new leads. “We are targeting a new consumer base that we were not able to target before.”
Analysts also believe the ability for businesses to purchase large volumes of smartphones with airtime could be an attractive way to manage costs. HMD has already indicated that it has plans to digitise its B2B operations in the UK too.
The final part of the equation is sustainability. In addition to a three-year warranty on some devices, anyone who purchases a new Nokia handset in the UK will be ‘gifted’ the ability to plant trees as part of HMD’s partnership with Bristol-based startup Ecologi.
“When customers buy a Nokia device, they should feel good about it,” declared Riaz.
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Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.