Italian MVNO Optima Mobile, operating on Vodafone’s 4G network, has made an automatic top-up service available to prepaid users. Previously, customers had to manually top-up their credit online or at Mooney or PuntoLis points of sales, but now they can activate automatic top-ups for no additional charge.
Once activated, customers’ credit cards will be charged approximately 24 hours before the designated renewal date for the chosen plan.
Optima Italia is a multi-utility that currently offers energy and telecommunications services, and has recently also reached a deal to provide a fixed line broadband via the FTTH network of wholesale-only operator Open Fiber.
Optima Italia’s introduction of automatic top-ups for prepaid users is a simple but helpful feature that should help the operator save on costs and reduce churn. What is more interesting, however, is the fact that Optima is a “multi-utility” company that provides customers with both energy (electric and gas) and telecom services.
For the last several years, telecom providers have been bundling ever more services with their plan offerings to fight customer turnover. Many European operators pursued acquisitions that allow them to offer quad-play options, including mobile, home broadband, cable television and home voice all under one umbrella. Packaging other home utilities into this sort of bundle could be a logical next step for telecom operators looking to fortify its customer relationships.
Of course, expanding into other home utilities wouldn’t be feasible for all operators. This could only be accomplished via partnership with an existing utility, and establishing these partnerships can be challenging. However, it’s also important to realize that merged services could be achieved in either direction. Utility companies could enter the telecom space as MVNOs and compete against established providers without the need to build a new infrastructure. While existing telcos have a branding advantage and operate in a much more competitive space, a utility-driven MVNO isn’t impossible. In situations where such partnerships could be a viable option, taking the first step might be an avenue worth exploring.