Sonopia (opens in new tab) got a write up in Business Week yesterday. The deal, apparently, is your group (i.e. Sports team fans, church, local grocery store co-op, whatever) can sign up with Sonopia and let them provide a Mobile Virtual Network (piggybacking on Verizon) for you. The benefits: your group gets a bit of the profit and you get to communicate with each other via the MVNO.
All this tells me two things: 1) there's a lot of extra money sloshing around the mobile phone market (which I knew anyway from the crazy way that phones are subsidized) and 2) It would be fun to start up a WMExperts MVNO. Who's with me?
Read: Do-It-Yourself Wireless (via Consumerist)
This sounds an aweful lot like an Amway pyramid scam to me. I can imagine getting cornered by some random guy at a high school reunion about becoming an entrprenuer and building a residual income. It just seems weird to me.
Beware of Sonopia!
In their own words:
?Essentially, launching a Sonopia is the same as creating your own mobile service. When you create a Sonopia, you're creating your own branded mobile phone service, which members can subscribe to. So now you can communicate directly to your community in an innovative new way, and make money for your organization in the process.? (From Sonopia?s FAQ page, August 11, 2007)
Notice they said ?When you create a Sonopia, you're creating your own branded mobile phone service ?? Okay, sounds simple enough, right? Not so quick. There are a couple of very serious problems with the way Sonopia does business.
Trust us but you can?t verify
First and foremost, while they say they will tell you how many subscribers have signed up for ?? your own branded mobile phone service ?? and they will give you the email addresses of the subscribers, they will not tell you exactly who the subscribers are, what wireless plans they have chosen, or how much money they are spending each month ? and that is a very serious problem! In fact, for any experienced business person, it is a deal breaker ? a complete non-starter. Without that information you will not know who your customers are; you cannot develop any meaningful demographic profiles; and you cannot verify that you are being paid what you should be paid! YOU CAN?T LOOK AT THE BOOKS!
Their reason? They claim it is a privacy issue, which of course is patently absurd. When it was pointed out that the subscribers to the service were generated by the ? ? branded mobile phone service ?? and not by Sonopia, they said that while that was true it didn?t change the privacy issue. Then when asked if the subscribers (customers) belong to the branded mobile phone service that generated the customers or to Sonopia, Chris, a Sonopia representative said they are really Sonopia?s customers. Wow! What?s going on here?
What?s going on is a lot of deception.
Anyone who signs up with Sonopia is doing so without any normal kind of basic good-faith transparency from Sonopia. In fact, Sonopia blatantly admits that they will not be accountable to those people who sign up for their private label service. By all accounts, their policy seems to be ?Trust us and don?t even think about verifying your income.?
There are other worrisome issues as well, which reinforce the general conclusion that Sonopia does not do business in good faith. One should also be aware that ?Sonopia's Development Center is located in Kyiv, Ukraine.?
Juha Christensen was a VP at Microsoft, President of Macromedia Mobile and Consumer Electronics, Board Member and Executive Committee Member of CTIA and an Executive Vice President of Symbian.
He spends most of his time in his native Scandanavia and the Ukraine. He knows the wireless industry and this isn't some type of fly by night operation.
To the poster above, I am curious as to how you think this type of service would be administered? Would you think that people outside of the service provider should be able to view your customer records? Of course they are Sonopias customers. I think this is a creative way of niche branding and look forward to seeing demonstrative results from groups starting their own MVNOs (although I realize this service provides more of a Virtual MVNO :))
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