Operator Innovation: Access any airport lounge with T-Mobile GlobalPlus+

It’s time for the sixth post in our Operator Innovation series.

Last week I looked at the issue of SMS and how operators still have time to leverage one of their strongest assets — messaging and the phone number identity that underpins it.

This week I’m looking at added value — or semi-intangibles. I’ve often remarked before that operators need to get into the lifestyle business more. For large sections of the population, call minutes and text messaging bundles are a known quantity. Yup. Next. Move on. Is that really all you can offer me? More minutes? Double minutes? 3.5 extra minutes if I call between the hours of blah and blah? Double texts on a Tuesday if I top up with a fiver?

What if I’m a contract customer?

This is where it gets increasingly frustrating for certain segments of the operator market.

There’s a lot of people out there who define themselves as sovereign individuals. They might be contractors or perhaps self-employed. They are, fundamentally, business people. They’re either total entrepreneurs or they have a wild entrepreneurial streak that surfaces regularly. And they ‘speak’ brand. They have the best watch, the nicest suit — they research the best case for their iPad 2, they buy the highest quality accessories for their top-of-the-range Sony ultralight laptop or their Mac Air. They eat out regularly in nice restaurants. In the absence of religion or traditional class structure, they define themselves by brand consumption and allegiance.

And their operator is ignoring them. Chances are, the operator is busy trying to flog SIMs to the fabled 16p-annual-ARPU mass market, whilst totally ignoring the segment of discerning customers with large amounts of disposable income to spend.

I suspect that if you’re reading Mobile Industry Review, you probably fit into this sovereign individual category. You may well be an employee but I’m sure, at minimum, you have some level of entrepreneurial streak. Otherwise you’d be sitting watching Jeremy Kyle instead of reading this.

So please do run with me for the moment.

Ben Smith was describing to me his abject joy at discovering T-Mobile have apparently introduced a price plan ‘booster’ that, for £15 a month, offers unlimited BlackBerry data worldwide. He explains the full offering here.

“Really?” I asked, my excitement rising.

“Yes, really,” he confirms. He actually had to do a heck of a lot of confirming. He didn’t believe it. Neither did I.

But yes, it’s valid. Obviously there are some efficiencies to be gained from BlackBerries due to the way they manage and route their data traffic. RIM are ultra efficient with data consumption on their devices.

This price plan ‘bolt on’ had me reaching for the phone. I am nigh-on almost ready to swap to T-Mobile as my primary operator for this, given how much I use my (BlackBerry) abroad.

But I haven’t swapped.

Not yet.

It’s not quite enough. It’s certainly almost there, but not enough to get me to switch. I’m ‘ok’ paying £2/day for 25mb in Europe to Vodafone at the moment.

This got me thinking. What would make me switch? What would it take?

I think I need more.

Sell me the lifestyle. Sell me the benefits. Let me feel good. Give me something that makes MY spend with T-Mobile look better than my friend’s spend. The fact I can’t easily differentiate operator choice between my peers is bad news.

I’d like the best. This segment really does £59 on a super-quality leather case for their iPad/iPhone/MacBook Air.

So what would get me excited?

Well, I traveled to Ireland last night. I popped into Heathrow Terminal 1 to take the Aer Lingus flight to Cork as I’m attending a wedding this weekend. I had some food at the ultra shit but very nicely appointed “The Goose” pub and waited for my colleague Rafe Blandford to arrive.

It’s at this point that I thought I should have ‘lounge access’.

Why doesn’t my operator offer me this? If I’m thinking about buying a global data roaming package, chances are I might also want to get airport lounge access too, so I can do some work. Or get a free mini can of coke along with a biscuit.

I’d like to explain to Rafe that my T-Mobile GlobalPlus+ price plan gets me and one friend into any airport lounge on the planet.

I’d feel good. Rafe would feel good too. And probably make a mental note to investigate that price plan for himself later on.

It does actually make sense — if you’re buying an international data roaming package, chances are you’d like that too.

But there’s more.

Why not sell me a Boingo Wireless account too? So that, thanks to being a customer with T-Mobile, I can get access to every possible hotspot on the planet as well.

Airport lounge access? That’s valuable.

WiFi anywhere? That’s valuable.

So when I’m looking down the price plan option list, why not add these on? These kind of semi-intangible options really do start making folk feel good. They represent (at minimum) a perception of value, even if you actually only go abroad twice a year.

I could definitely imagine paying a fiver or a tenner extra to T-Mobile each month so that I got access to their suite of GlobalPlus+ fancy sounding offerings.

All of a sudden, T-Mobile can start extracting additional cash for more than just minutes, texts and data.

I’d really like to see a lot more experiments in this regard. What about, for example, adding in Regus office support? Pay £100 per month and you get ‘planet-wide WiFi access’, priority airport lounge access and the ability to ‘touchdown’ at 1,100 offices worldwide?

Now it’s a real business tool for me, not just a commodity..

What do you think?

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Check out the other posts in the Operator Innovation series:

- Let me access my SMS everywhere
One number for all my voice calls
Fancy a MacBook Air, iPhone, iPad for £100/month?
Why can’t my operator talk to my bank when my card declines abroad
Taxis, baby, Taxis!

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