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Sonopia: Be Your Own MVNO

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Build Your Own Third Rate Mobile Network

TechCrunch just posted about a new mobile startup called Sonopia. Sonopia lets you create you own mobile social network on top of Verizon’s phone service for fun and profit. Anyone can create a network (called Sonopia) in a couple of minutes. The idea is that organizations will build there own branded networks, attract subscribers, and provide exclusive content relevant to their users (news, blogs). A percentage of each member’s monthly mobile bill goes directly to the organization.

Subscribers can choose from a few different phones and calling plans along with additional MMS and WAP packages. For promotional purposes, networks can co-brand their own website to get people to sign up.

No one has to sign up for a mobile plan to be a part of a Sonopia. Instead, they can sign up for just the web component, where you can keep track of the news and friends within your network. However, it all seems pretty pointless to use this service if the majority of your users aren’t using the main feature of the service, the mobile plan.

There are plenty of well financed MVNOs currently slugging it out for you attention: Helio ($440 million), Amp’d ($260 million), and Boost. Helio, with its large marketing push this quarter, is considering it a triumph to be closing in on 100,000 users. Mobile is in the midst of ever dwindling margins, relying on large networks to bring in the serious cash. If the big guys are having trouble building revenue on top of large subscriber numbers, Sonopia’s decentralized approach seems to give too little an incentive for smaller organizations and subscribers to invest time and money in switching to a new network.

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