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MNOs multi-brand strategy: An Inside Look

Many MNOs within the UK, and across the world, have recently taken to launching sub-brands. Although a multi brand strategy hasn’t been a traditional strategy for network operators in the UK, the approach is more commonplace across Europe. This practice has been used since the early 2000s, but it has now developed into an essential element of an MNO’s strategic thinking.


This is because the old consumer business models, based on subscriptions and long-term contracts, commonly deployed by MNOs, are too inflexible and no longer line up with customer’s expectations. Today’s consumers want the flexibility to decide how much data and minutes and texts their contract allows them and have the ability to quickly modify it as their needs change. Therefore, to succeed in the modern communications market a multi-brand approach is a strong play. Instead of a one size fits all approach, sub brands address niche customer segment needs.


By creating a sub-brand, MNOs can create diversity in their offering and as a result capture a wider slice of the market, by appealing to different segments simultaneously. Sub-brands deliver differentiated customer experiences and address specific target markets and demographics with a digital-first approach. They leverage the network and resources of the CSP main brand and open new revenue streams.


MNOs utilise sub-brands to launch new products or services, compete with low-cost operators and diversify their portfolio. More recently the use of a sub-brand has been favoured to reduce the cost and time to market for a new digital brand, whilst protecting the premium positioning of the parental brand. For example, Vodafone launched a new sub-brand called Voxi, with the sole aim of capturing customers under the age of 25. However, by launching this as a sub-branding they could keep hold of and protect the branding of Vodafone in the eyes of its older consumers.


Another recent example of a successful sub-brand, which we at Lifecycle worked on, was SMARTY, launched by Three in the UK.


The aim for Three when launching SMARTY was to attract customers who were primarily looking for a flexible deal. They were able to offer SMARTY customers, a rolling monthly SIM-only contract, limited to online only-support. With no bill shock, customer control and an honest and transparent ethos, SMARTY made the difference and conquered market share. The most unique selling point of the brand was, however, the operator’s offer to buy back unused data by means of discounting the bill. This was at the time a completely new concept for the UK market and went above the current offering of rolling-on data.


The partnership between Lifecycle and Three has proven to be a fruitful one with SMARTY holding a 4.2 rating on Trustpilot and a growth of 154% in H1 in 2021.

To quicken the time to market, operators looking for expanding via sub brands need an experienced partner with a tried and tested BSS with Online Charging/ Converged charging, which could be easily integrated into the network.

To make new services come to life, Three needed to simplify and expand access to the wider MVNO market by introducing a cloud-based solution that could be easily adopted by wholesale partners. They were also looking for a dynamic, real-time, online charging system and associated control for their MVNO.


Working with Lifecycle, Three were able to deliver the platform to SMARTY customers in a short timeframe. The operator also launched another MVNO for a well-known UK high-street retailer and offer an end-to-end solution for future MVNOs.

With a success story like this, it’s not hard to see why so many MNOs are looking to launch a sub-brand. But key steps and strategic partnering must be considered before launching.


Starting a sub-brand requires a flexible BSS (business support system) able to deliver an innovative proposition. The sub brand uses the infrastructure of the parent brand, which is cost-efficient. However, it requires separated web portals, billing, CRM, managed services, real-time charging and more features. To sum it up, it’s a greenfield brand that needs separated BSS management. To address this, MNOs can use multitenancy or partner with vendors with the BSS flexibility required to support new services and go to market quickly.

Automation is a key factor to consider when looking to start a telecom sub-brand. An automated BSS allows to launch a sub-brand with less resources and fewer people. In long term, automation results in impressive employee to subscriber ratios that become a key revenue source. We are a big believer in the use of automation within a workflow where possible. The use of automation not only minimises the cost for you but also results in a quicker and more accurate system and overall, a more positive experience for customers.

Our cloud-native Business Support System (BSS) platform has a high degree of automation and it’s flexible thanks to a dynamic micro-services architecture that enables easy integrations and interoperability of components. It’s orchestrated by Kubernetes to allow the dynamic allocating of computing resources to fulfil the demand. Our APIs are open, and they allow for an easier exchange of information between new and existing systems, making our solutions easier to plug into the infostructure of an existing MNO.

Once launched all MVNOs are provided with ongoing support. Lifecycle’s team were able to manage the hosting environment and all aspects of the charging and invoicing processes. This level of ongoing support and ownership enables our customers to concentrate on building sales and commercial success.


If you would like to find out more about how Lifecycle can help you, please get in touch.