STUART KENNEDY
March 22, 2017

Sugo stirs pot on virtual mobile

TelcoLand

Sugo stirs pot on virtual mobile

Rene Sugo: Demanding action from Communications Minister Mitch Fifield on virtual mobile numbers

MNF Group chief executive Rene Sugo wants the federal government to change the rules around virtual mobile phone numbers, and says the resistance by at least one large telco is stifling innovation in the sector.

Mr Sugo wants Communications Minister Mitch Fifield to step in and make the big telcos crack open their networks to MNF's virtualised mobile number service.

Speaking at the Tech Leaders event in the Blue Mountains last weekend the MyNetFone chief told the 30 odd assembled tech journos of his plan for virtual mobile number service.

“MyNetFone went and got a bunch of mobile numbers from the ACMA, we checked the regulations, did a bunch of work to integrate to the networks, and were ready to launch a ground breaking innovation – way ahead of our overseas peers,” Mr Sugo said.

The idea behind virtual mobile numbers is that you can use them to hide your actual mobile number for security and convenience.

“These cloud based numbers look like a duck, quack like the proverbial mobile duck. What would make more sense than having the ability to have different mobile numbers for different online aliases – one for shopping, one for work, one for home,” Mr Sugo said.

“If one number gets compromised, bin it and get a new one – without affecting your professional or personal life.”

Unfortunately, Mr Sugo did not get co-operation locked in from the major mobile network operators before embarking on MNF’s virtual mobile phone number service.

“We’ve been paddling nowhere like crazy all this time to try to get the networks to co-operate,” he said.

“For a new service to work in the market, it must be reachable from all the other networks. It’s not rocket science. If just one network refuses, your innovation is useless.

“All the hard work is done, the roadblock is commercial not technical, Mr Sugo said.

MNF does not have the time or the resources to try and force the telcos to come around through the courts.

“None of it is enforceable without a court ruling. ACMA has the power to give out phone numbers, but not the power to make them active. The ACCC has the power to shutdown innovation, but not to encourage it.

“We could spend 10 years and countless millions in court trying to get our little home grown innovation to market, he said.

Instead, Mr Sugo wants Senator Fifield to whip the telcos into MNF’s line with a ministerial declaration.

“I am calling on Mitch Fifield to make a ministerial declaration of mobile services as a designated interconnect service – making all mobile service numbers equal regardless of network provider or technology.

“We need to put an end to the games being played in the “unenforceable communication regulation” framework we have in Australia. This will allow digital transformation and innovation to thrive for the benefit of consumers, the industry and economy,” he said.

Mr Sugo is no shrinking violet when it comes to using the lobbying bullhorn at the Tech Leaders event. At the 2016 event he told the assembled tech journos that he wanted the NBN to remove connectivity virtual circuit (CVC) pricing and reduce NBN’s points of interconnect (POIs).

He argued the predominately fixed line NBN was in danger of being bypassed by wireless broadband deals from the likes of Telstra, Vodafone and Optus.

Doing away with CVC pricing and trimming POIs would make flogging NBN data services more attractive to smaller resellers (such as MNF) Mr Sugo said last year.

“The NBN has to be the 'number one choice' for data services for consumers, and be available at a viable price point for service providers of all sizes to resell -- and, as it stands, this is not going to be realistic," he told the assembled journos last year.

MNF got a nice stock price bump in February when it landed itself on the voice services panel for the Victorian government, a $30 million plus market.

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