Mobile update

Simon Woodhead

Simon Woodhead

1st November 2016

November 18th 17:00 – FINAL UPDATE

Regretfully we were unable to satisfy our technical concerns with the preferred solution on the table. They were fundamental and therefore we’ve been unable to proceed.

Given our self-imposed time-table we therefore need to call time on our SIM offering, for now.

Customers with active contracts will be contacted next week in regards to formal termination. Whilst Developer Kits are non-refundable, as a gesture of goodwill, any customer who has purchased one in the last 3 months will be refunded in full by way of call credit. In any event, any Developer Kit purchaser will be entitled to replacement SIMs at no charge if/when a replacement service is available.

We again apologise but get the strong feeling that you understand this was beyond our control. We’d repeat that had Ofcom allocated us the resources we asked for and rightly needed, continued service would have been considerably easier.

This is not the end; the removal of the time pressure opens up several options that we will be exploring and we’ll announce something in due course if successful.

We’re also pleased to finally announce, albeit quietly, that we have fully in-bundle voice and SMS capable mobile numbers and Mobile Number Portability – mobile numbers with voice delivered to you by SIP, and SMS by HTTPS or SMPP. These can be used in your own services or hand-in-hand with the Simwood App. We’ll be saying a lot more about all three very soon!

November 15th 23:00

We have no update as yet. Discussions are ongoing regarding contracts and our technical due diligence has raised a couple of challenges. We’re pushing to resolve these at the earliest opportunity.

November 14th at 17:30

It seems old SIMs have finally stopped working, although we still have yet to hear anything formally from our partner MNO. It is almost as if they knew the goodies we had to announce to you following the weekend’s negotiations!

We have good news as outlined below and will confirm exactly what that means as soon as paperwork is concluded. We hope that will be tomorrow.

November 11th at 10:00

We have good news!

Firstly, mobile service via our old partner continues to work. Despite multiple sources telling us that they have ceased trading and that there’re no UK-staff on-hand, service continues. We have still had no formal communication which whilst great news, will become a hindrance as we move forwards.

Now, it seems if we want to get news out in future, we just need to frame it as bad news rather than good. Wildfire would be an understatement and goes to show that either mobile has been wildly more successful than we internally see, or the British just love misery. We suspect a bit of both.

We’ve been incredibly popular and had many conversations along three fronts:

  • Fake customers. It seems our sales, technical and support input is responsible for more MVNOs than we take credit for – people who had apparently used us simply to identify a supply chain. Several have been in touch panicking and wanting advice on who to talk to next! We find that highly offensive but the satisfaction comes in their bemusement at all the elements of our service that, unlike theirs, are and will remain totally unaffected by this development. That is because we add value and we have infrastructure; replicate our supply chain all you like but you don’t replicate our service, infrastructure or most importantly culture. We’re nevertheless flattered they chose us to copy in the first place, and we’re the first place they turn to when they have a problem.
  • New customers. We’ve never had so many support tickets and sales enquiries about mobile. The support tickets are not about problems, but rather dormant customers springing into action and pushing their products forwards. The sales enquiries are huge and exciting and come from a recognition that what we offer is completely unique. Other people resell parts of a solution, others buy bits of infrastructure, but nobody puts it together to offer a comparable solution. That level of interest and excitement gives us huge confidence and we’re very grateful for the support.
  • Collaborators. We’re touched and grateful for the number of people that have got in touch offering to  work with us. They’ve come from all levels of the food-chain and whilst they all have differing motivations and capabilities, we’re very grateful. They’ve given us lots of options and a number of dilemmas but that is a great position to be in and a complete contrast to 2014 when we started on this journey.

So, where does this leave us. Aside from the option of licking our wounds and saving expensive monthly commitments, which frankly has a lot of appeal, we have essentially two choices going forwards.

The first is a new MNO, very similar to our previous partner in set-up. Architecturally they can meet 100% of our needs, but operationally the Jury is out. Strategically it is a problem and commercially expected to be at best equivalent to our previous cost-base, which we know was a challenge particularly around data pricing.

The second is dealing with one of the big MNOs. Sadly, without a Regus office and a few million in bank debt, we appear to be too intangible to deal with directly (oh, the irony) which is insulting and frustrating. However, we’ve had really positive engaged conversations with one of the MVNAs, and given that most of the intellectual property in Simwood Mobile is our side, they can do almost everything we need. There’s some compromises, such as a loss of per SIM branding of the network name, but there’s also some immediate and big wins such as 4G and roaming. Commercially, it is another huge investment for us but we access better pricing than previously, especially around data.

We expect to make a decision on which route to go by close of play on Monday. We will confirm what this means for existing contracts and Developer Kits in the light of that decision.

We’re excited at the possibilities ahead and really touched by your enthusiasm in response to an obvious setback. That is in part enhanced by what else we have going on in the background that doesn’t relate to SIMs, and we can’t wait to tell you about that in due course.

Naturally, we’d really appreciate your feedback on the above and how you think it might affect your solutions, as ultimately, that is what is going to define our combined success in this space. Please just email our usual support address with your thoughts!

November 1st at 13:18

We have had positive conversations with alternative MNOs and are pursuing them with vigour. We know from our experiences in mobile that what can be done, and actually getting it done, are very very different. Thus, whilst we’re positive and committed we are setting a hard date of 14 days from now (November 15) at which point we’ll formerly terminate mobile service if we do not have a viable alternative. We do not yet have absolute commercials and a technical proposition

In the interim, we will not be enforcing contracted minimum commitments. We will take a view on other items at the point we’re able to decide future direction.

November 1st at 11:00

We have received informal notice that our partner for mobile (who provide the customised Simwood core) has “immediately ceased trading and gone into liquidation”. We have not yet had any formal notification, nor been able to determine the extent of harm this does to our service. The MNO concerned has a complicated global structure and we do not yet know if this only affects the UK subsidiary (with whom we contract) or more.

Whilst SIM cards are still functional at the time of writing, the safest assumption is that they will cease functioning at some point, potentially permanently. At that point we may have no alternative but to formally terminate mobile services under any agreement we have. For now, however, we wanted to let customers know what we know, and advise that we have suspended the provisioning of new SIMs to prevent further disruption.

As long-time customers and followers will know, Simwood Mobile has been a huge investment for us both in terms of time and energy and, of course, money so we’re really disappointed and embarrassed at this third party failure. As you’ll know from previous updates, earlier in the year we identified some aspects of the service that needed re-engineering (both commercially and technically) and that process has been ongoing. This does limit the fallout from this somewhat and we’re on track to provide an update on Mobile Number Portability and some exciting developments with mobile numbering soon. Simwood Mobile will continue; the SIM element might not but we’ll try our damnedest.

At the risk of writing one paragraph too many, some may ask whether we considered this risk. We did, and this scenario was one of the reasons we lobbied Ofcom so hard for certain resources that would have given us independence as an MNO. They flatly refused on farcical technical grounds and forced us to compromise our standards. Had we been granted what we asked for, we would have had considerably more options at this stage. Ofcom now has another opportunity to demonstrate it has a point in protecting consumers and promoting competition by ensuring service continues – we hope that they do not disappoint, although have little expectation. Additionally, it may not be possible for this to take place quickly enough to ensure continuity of service.

Thank you for your trust, and whilst we’re happier to have tried and failed than never to have bothered, we’re not happy letting you down. We’ll update you as soon as we know more.

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