Thomas Sandaker, the former head of the Norwegian MVNO Hello, has set up a new virtual operator in that country called Happybytes, running on the network of Telenor Norway. Customers can choose to pay NOK 50.00 (US $6.07) for up to 10,000 SMS, MMS and voice minutes, or NOK 20.00 (US $2.43) for a bundle of 100 texts/MMS/minutes and then an out-of-bundle rate of NOK 0.30 (US $0.04) per unit, or else a pay-as-you-go rate of NOK 0.30 per unit with no other charge.
Mobile data is charged on a sliding scale that indicates price depending on the amount of data consumed per month. Low data usage is relatively expensive, and the price per megabyte falls as the amount consumed increases. The Happybytes depicts this relationship using an interactive slider. Setting the slider to 1 GB shows a price of NOK 149.00 (US $18.08), while 20 GB will cost NOK 435.00 (US $52.80) or NOK 21.75 per gigabyte, and the slider moves all the way up to 100 GB at NOK 995 (US $120.75), or NOK 9.95 per gigabyte. Fractions of gigabytes can be selected on the slider.
There is no monthly subscription and no commitment period. Happybytes charges the same prices in Europe as it does for its services within Norway but charges different prices for mobile data outside it, as well as on ships, planes and via satellite.
Happybytes debuts by offering a suite of services with a large dollop of flexibility added to the mix, which we feel will be appealing to Norwegian mobile users. On the voice and text side, the MVNO uses the time-tested strategy of interchangeable units, by which subscribers can mix and match within a bundle, paying the same whether they choose to use more voice minutes or more SMS or MMS. Or, if they prefer not to buy a bundle at all, they can simply pay as they go, by the unit, paying the same amount per unit as the out-of-bundle rate. Of course, the ultimate flexibility here comes at a price, considering that with the 10,000-unit bundle, the cost per unit is 60 times cheaper than the pay-as-you-go rate.
As for the data, we think Happybytes is doing the right thing by showing its potential and actual customers graphically, in an easy-to-use format, how the data pricing works. The flexibility of choosing your own data consumption and per-month pricing should appeal to users in a way analogous to the flexibility afforded by the bundle pricing. Again, there is a significant price disparity, with data costing 15 times more at the low-usage end than at the high-usage end. Showing clearly how much a customer stands to save by consuming more services is an excellent way to encourage the customer to do so. If Happybytes delivers high-grade signal quality over Telenor’s network, it should be able to attract and keep a solid customer base of budget-minded users.