Mobile data pricing, spectrum
and network economics
metrics and insights
Rewheel/research >
Intersection of mobile data technology, spectrum, network economics, competition, pricing and strategy
since 2009
Our core belief is that unlimited mobile data plans, new radio spectrum bands, 4.5G and 5G technology, massive MIMO, near zero marginal cost and the Internet of Things radically change mobile network operators’ cost, revenue and profitability dynamics. Rewheel's mission is to help prepare for the paradigm shift in network and spectrum strategy, spectrum valuation, network sharing, M&A, MVNO economics and mobile data pricing.

Founded in 2009, Rewheel is a Finland based boutique telecoms management consultancy. Our clients are mainly European mobile network operators, telco groups, MVNO groups, sector regulators, governments, global internet firms, mobile data-centric start ups, PE and VC investors.

Since 2009 Rewheel has been taking a consistent, pro-competitive position on the financial sustainability of Finnish-like unlimited mobile data for MNOs: “Mobile telecoms margins safe in data surge” – Reuters, 2010 (link)

We delivered management consultancy work for clients in the United Kingdom, United States, Ireland, Switzerland, Finland, Sweden, Belgium, Greece, Poland, Slovenia, Hungary, Russia, Romania. Buyers of our research reports and related strategic workshops include many companies and authorities across Europe and world wide.

Antonios Drossos Pal Zarandy
Managing partner Senior partner
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  • 20+ years mobile industry experience, 10+ years management consulting
  • Nokia, Northstream, 3GIS (network sharing JV), ACN (MVNO), Omnitele, Rewheel
  • Retail and wholesale pricing
  • Business and profitability models, usage, subscriber, revenue forecasts
  • Strategic and tactcial commercial LTE infra vendor negotiations
  • MVNO wholesale deal assessment and negotiation
  • Network and spectrum sharing compensation mechanisms
  • Competition assessments, remedy design
  • Spectrum auction design and strategy
  • Commercial regulatory argumentation development
  • Roaming and termination/interconnection commercial models
  • Spectrum valuation
  • Due diligence
  • Strategy
  • 20+ years mobile data experience, 10+ years management consulting
  • worldwide mobile data radio performance patent
  • Ericsson, Vodafone, Omnitele, Rewheel
  • Network-economics, spectrum usage models
  • 700, 700 SDL, 800, 900, 1400 (SDL), 1800, 2100, 2600, 3600 MHz models
  • Mobile data traffic models
  • Capacity, spectrum efficiency
  • Small cells, backhaul technologies
  • Radio, core, backhaul network hardware, software, Capex, Opex dimensioning
  • Technical aspects of MOCN, MORAN network and spectrum sharing
  • Hardware and software capacity metrics and LTE vendor pricing (Ericsson, Nokia, Huawei, ZTE)
  • Network performance, QoS differentiation, network slicing, 5G, IoT, MIMO, SDN/NFV, policy control, DPI, technical features and roadmaps
  • Technical RfI, RfQ specs and evaluation
  • Technical regulatory argumentation development
  • Strategy

If the scope requires so then we involve our trusted external senior associates. This has been the case for example when top-class specialist auction theory expertise (SMRA, CCA, CMRA), hands-on go-to-market strategy development experience, in-depth engineering skills or EU competition law expertise have been required in our more complex consulting engagements.

Near zero marginal cost paradigm shift: getting prepared for unlimited data and 5G
The unlimited mobile data model that has been the norm in our home market Finland for the last ten years is now proliferating in Europe (see our related research report here, linkedin post here). In markets where unlimited or generous data allowances prevail mobile data traffic grows exponentially. In Finland the mobile data usage per person has now exceeded the fixed-line internet usage in Germany.

Ahead of the upcoming 700 MHz, 700 MHz SDL, 1400 MHz SDL, 2300 MHz (TDD) and 3600 MHz (TDD) spectrum auctions we help our European clients to reassess their fixed-to-mobile broadband substitution, network sharing, small cell and spectrum deployment strategies, both from technology and as well from business aspects. In these engagements we work very closely with our clients’ engineers, regulatory and commercial experts and capture the business cases and valuations in advanced excel based network-economics models. Our work in spectrum related engagements typically includes in-depth analysis and number crunching of site-by-site coverage, capacity, traffic, site-type databases. We have extensive experience and the proprietary tools to prepare CEO level actionable insights from such data.

We help MNOs prepare for the spectrum auctions, starting with the advocacy phase (ideally starting well before the regulator announces the consultation), through the consultation phase, the valuation and bidding strategy development all the way till the execution of the auctions. We have been working in close cooperation with our world leading auction and game theory expert partners who have extensive experience in designing and bidding in CCA and SMRA format spectrum auctions.
700, 700 SDL, 1400 SDL, 2300, 3600 MHz spectrum strategy and valuation
Since the onset of the mobile internet centric 900, 1800 and 2100 MHz license renewal wave in 2011 in Europe we have been providing strategy, spectrum valuation and auction theory advice (together with our world class CCA/SMRA auction theorist partners) to five European award processes (operator or regulator side depending on country), including new entrants and acquisitions as well as license renewals in multi-band (typically 800,900,1800,2100 and 2600 MHz) auctions. So far our spectrum advisory support has been directly impacting over EUR 1bn of European spectrum investments/state proceeds.

We helped European mobile operators to assess the strategic risks and opportunities associated with the upcoming 700 MHz spectrum auctions, and analysed the likely range of financial impacts of 700 MHz acquisition on active network sharing business cases.

We live tracked EU's first 700 MHz spectrum auction in Germany (link)

The battle for the connected car is on, geographical coverage (as opposed to population coverage), and in turn holdings of sub 1-GHz spectrum, such as 700 MHz, is increasingly becoming a core competitive differentiation factor.

3.6 GHz TDD massive MIMO deployed on the existing macro site grid
Research, lab and field trials increasingly show that Massive MIMO active antenna arrays deployed on operators’ existing macro site grids (e.g. co-located with 1800 MHz antennas) could unlock massive throughput and data volume capacities, enabling cost efficient and reliable fixed-to-mobile broadband substitution, without deploying large amounts of small cells.

Massive MIMO technology promises drastically lowered power consumption, significantly improved outdoor-to-indoor penetration (that used to be a significant hurdle for the adoption of high frequency bands such as 3.6 GHz) and radically improved radio link reliability due to the “channel hardening” effect and increases spectral efficiency (b/s/Hz) by an order of magnitude.

The 3.6 GHz “cmWave” spectrum band, which is the primary candidate in Europe for the first 5G deployments, is very well suited to massive MIMO technology. We closely follow the latest developments on the massive MIMO and 3.6 GHz front and channel our insights into our consulting engagements (e.g. spectrum strategy development, spectrum auction advisory, network economics aspects of unlimited mobile data).
Market consolidation and new market entry
Working for mobile operators and MVNOs, we carried out unhampered competition analysis, effective remedy design and remedy assessment in very challenging in-market consolidation cases in the last three years.

Our consolidation related research has been included by DG Competition in the file of the German, Danish, UK and Italian mobile mergers and our infrastructure centric pro-competitive arguments are echoed by many sector regulators and the antitrust authority of the European Commission. We support our clients with factual assessments and credible economic, technology and merger regulation analysis and market entry business cases.

In market consolidation and network sharing related consulting engagements typically we work very closely with top international law firms specialising into competition.

Our knowledge covers:
  • Competition concerns and effective merger and network sharing clearance remedies in the form of commitments
  • Competition authority approved mobile mergers in Austria, Germany, Ireland, Norway and Italy, failed mergers in Denmark and the United Kingdom
  • Competition on the network layer and the services layer, short term and long term competitive differentiating factors
  • Merger efficiencies
  • MVNOs, upfront capacity based wholesale access versus throughput and gigabyte-volume based MVNO agreements
  • Structural remedies, spectrum, site, customer base divestments, national roaming for new MNO entrants
  • Affordable open internet access and specialised services
  • Efficient infrastructure investments
  • Use-it-or-lose-it spectrum capacity utilisation commitments
  • Passive and active network sharing (such as MOCN), coverage and capacity based compensation mechanisms
  • Lean, data-centric, LTE-only new mobile network operator entries
Network sharing as a substitute to in-market consolidation
We helped European mobile operators to develop network and spectrum sharing strategies and compensation mechanisms that do not raise serious anti-competitive effects and are likely to be approved by sector regulators and competition authorities.

Passive infrastructure sharing, active infrastructure sharing, spectrum sharing, spectrum pooling present different regulatory and competiton authority intervention risk factors, just like the geographical scope, the capacity dimension and technology specifics (e.g. MORAN vs MOCN). Our extensive knowledge on European network sharing cases has added significant value to our clients' decision processes.

The proposed compensation mechanisms are developed based on high level capacity models taking into account traffic geo-disribution (urban versus rural sites), the different software and hardware upgrade costs on low frequency (700, 800, 900 MHz) and high frequency (1800, 2100, 2600 MHz) spectrum bands, the different upgrade costs (mEUR per GBit/s busy hour throughput capacity) and capacity (bandwidth, spectrum efficiency) constrains of the "macro layer" and the future small cell layer.

Apart from the basic coverage and capacity economics of the passive and active infrastructure, the upcoming 700 MHz spectrum auctions also significantly shape the network sharing (joint venture) business cases. We have helped our operator clients factor in potential 700 MHz spectrum acquisition savings into the cost/benefit analyses.

In market consolidation and network sharing related consulting engagements typically we work very closely with top international law firms specialising into competition.
Sustainability of mobile-only capacity play and Mobile-Centric Convergence (MCC)
In our home market Finland the cellular mobile data consumption per capita has exceeded 20 Gbyte per month by the end of 2016. The data traffic keeps doubling year on year while operator CAPEX and OPEX are flat and revenues keep increasing. Bucking the “convergence” trend mobile operators offer unlimited home broadband and IPTV over 4G/LTE and due to the fixed to mobile substitution effect the number of fixed-broadband subscriptions started to decrease in 2015.
  • How far could your macro site grid accommodate data traffic growth given your spectrum and site grid constrains, taking into account uneven traffic distribution in time and space?
  • What software and hardware pricing mechanisms need to be renegotiated with your equipment vendors to prevent costs decoupling from revenues?
  • How much capacity can you gain by deploying macro site Massive MIMO active antennas in the TDD spectrum bands (such as 2.6GHz and later 3.4-3.8 GHz)?
  • When will you have to kick-off mass small cell deployment?
  • Is there a case to exit your sub-scale, performance-constrained (and sometimes usage constrained) wholesale access-based fixed-broadband business (e.g. DSL unbundling or bitstream access) and instead offer home broadband (and IPTV) connectivity based on your own 4G/LTE infrastructure?
  • What spectrum mix at what valuation should you acquire in the coming auctions in order to enable the “Finnish mobile data business model”?
MVNO network economics
The gradual shift of mass consumer demand from voice and SMS to internet connectivity makes traditional MVNO business models and wholesale network access prices and terms obsolete.

We helped the management of leading multinational MVNOs to understand the capacity and network cost dynamics of 4G networks and validate and refine their voice centric to data centric business model transformation strategies.

By developing customised MVNO network economics models we helped MVNOs to assess various wholesale access compensation mechanisms and negotiate competitive wholesale access deals with leading global tier-1 telco groups (as host MNOs).
Vendor software, hardware and services pricing mechanisms for the unlimited mobile data era
Fundamental drivers of mobile data network cost structure and economics are capacity and coverage-linked 4G infrastructure vendor software, hardware and services pricing mechanisms.

Business case of strategic initiatives such as active network sharing and mobile-data centric retail strategies such as fixed-broadband substitution heavily depends on existing and re-negotiated vendor pricing models.

We analysed pricing mechanisms of leading vendors like Ericsson, Huawei, Nokia-ALU, ZTE for many operators, tier-1 operator groups (global price books) and incorporated them in techno-economic models for active network sharing (e.g. pricing of MOCN feature), spectrum acquisition, retail pricing strategies, network modernisation RFQ, vendor contract re-negotiation, greenfield market entry.
5G pricing models, small cell and Massive MIMO network economics
We help our mobile operator clients explore and frame potential future 5G pricing strategies along the three main likely use-case dimensions:
  • eMBB (enhanced Mobile Broadband) – capacity enhancement, 3D and 4K video, augmented reality
  • URLLC (Ultra-Reliable and Low Latency Communications) – low latency, vehicular and industrial automation, self driving cars
  • mMTC (massive Machine Type Communications) – Internet of Things, sensor networks at scale
We investigate the commercial viability of different LTE-Advanced Pro ("pre5G") and 5G pricing strategies and their implications on spectrum demand (low frequency, high frequency and small cell specific bands), network capacity and costs, technology (QoS differentiation, network slicing, NFV, SDN) as well as fixed-mobile convergence strategy and net-neutrality related aspects.
Net neutral network slicing, QoS differentiation for Internet of Things, Mobile Video, Cloud, Connected Cars
Non-discriminatory QoS differentiation, ‘fast-lanes’, paid prioritisation, sponsored data: a wide range of 3GPP compliant 3G, LTE and LTE-Advanced technology solutions exist that enable innovative mobile data monetization strategies (for internet-access, specialised services, mobile video streaming, Internet of Things, Machine-to-Machine, connected cars, telemedicine) and business models even under the strictest net neutrality regulatory frameworks.

We have the required in-depth technology expertise (our consultants are inventors of world-wide patents related to novel mobile data traffic management techniques) as well as the techno-economic mobile data modelling framework (used for/by over ten European operators for spectrum, technology, pricing, vendor selection strategies) to develop and validate innovative “smart pipe” models.
Regulatory and competition authority clients
Our clients include some of Europe's most progressive telecom regulatory and competition authorities such as:

Ficora/Viestintävirasto (Finland), Ofcom (UK), ComReg (Ireland), ACM (Netherlands), Bundesnetzagentur (Germany), Bundeskartellamt (Germany), NMHH (Hungary).
Rewheel in the media
Our reports, insights and industry opinions are often cited by the internaional media:

Some organisations that have publicly referenced Rewheel/Digital Fuel Monitor research reports:

Rewheel Oy

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Tel: +358442032339
Linkedin: Rewheel
Twitter: @RewheelResearch

Mobile data pricing and network economics metrics and insights - by Rewheel

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