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US start-up offers MVNO DIY

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Ever dreamed of setting up your own Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO)?

US start-up Sonopia is offering just that. The company says it takes just 10 minutes to set up your own MVNO, and you receive about five per cent of the revenue your customers generate.

MVNOs set up through Sonopia are carried on Verizon's network, and while the range of handsets and tariffs they offer is pretty narrow, Sonopia does provide a content management system, templates to create content, and allows you to manage user-generated content in a social network Web 2.0 fashion.

The service is aimed at small organisations such as bands, sports teams, or (suggests Sonopia) churches. The basic idea is that anyone can create their own mobile network, differentiate it by providing unique content, and make money on every call made or received by their customers.

Customers signing up to a Sonopia service get access to that content and the knowledge that some of their bill is going to support the service they've signed up to.

However, most people only have one mobile phone account, so signing up users could prove tricky.

Creating your own MVNO is so easy that many will be tempted to give it a go, but long-term the prospects are more difficult to predict - few users choose their mobile phone provider on the basis of content or branding. In Europe it is still handset, then tariff, which drives customers to change networks, so we may not see a service like Sonopia succeed over here for a while. ®

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