Easymobile mk2 – the return of Stelios

Whilst reading this article in The Guardian about Blyk for my blog entry here, I picked up on this small snippet of news:

Stelios Haji-Ioannou, the entrepreneur behind easyJet, is believed to be planning to rekindle his mobile ambitions in the UK by launching a similar service. His last foray into the market collapsed last year when his network partner, Denmark’s TDC, was bought out by a private equity consortium including KKR and Apax Partners.

Do the public forgive and forget that easily? When EasyMobile closed just over six months ago, it left around 80,000 customers with a month to choose between moving to Carphone Warehouse MVNO Fresh or simply get a refund. At the time the company seemed pass the blame to their partner, the Danish mobile operator TDC, for pulling the plug. TDC said it was a “change in strategy”.

Here’s what I had to say on the subject at the time – and my thoughts are still pretty much the same.

Tesco, Sainsburys, M&S, and (to a lesser extent) Virgin are good brands to run an MVNO as they’re an existing brand with a strong retail base. Stelios has a bunch of internet cafes, an airline, cruise ships, a car rental company and most recently pizza delivery. I’m still at a loss how this whole lot is bought together as a ‘lifestyle brand package’, a la Virgin, or a brand extension to give your existing huge customer base, like the other aforementioned large retailers. By the way on the car rental side, I’ve used Easy a few times – but only when I found out National/Alamo were behind my local outlets, hence I can save money by going via Easy and not direct.

Also, one wonders what sort of contract existed between TDC and Easy. As far as I remember, Virgin Mobile is quite tied together legally between Virgin Group and T-Mobile, and I’d imagine the same goes for Tesco and O2. For TDC to just ‘suddenly’ announce it’s pulling out and leaving all Easymobile’s customers effectively high and dry – with an option of either porting (to another network or Fresh), or a refund – and all of this within literally a few weeks – it’s not going to help the reputation of the Easy brand.

Lastly, I’ve never even been offered an Easy mobile. Never seen an outlet selling them, or know of anyone who’s with them. Maybe I haven’t spent enough time hanging around Luton airport, hired enough cars, or been in one of their internet cafes lately to have someone try to flog me a handset.

Their site says 80k UK customers, no mention about Germany. Also I notice they launched a while back in Holland – wonder what’s happening there?

3 replies on “Easymobile mk2 – the return of Stelios”

ewen, you kinda look like Stelios Haji-Ioannou.
maybe your related to him.
anyone else see the resemblance?

I spoke in Berlin to serial entrepreneur Stelios Haji-Ioannou, founder of the airline easyJet and other successful low cost product ventures. It was during a press conference about the launch of, which wants to open 10 budget hotels across Germany over the next four years. But much more interesting I found what we talked aside: His mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) easyMobile will come back and offer free cell phone calls, sponsored by advertising.

Until not long ago there already was another easyMobile, planned as pan European MVNO. The Danish operator TDC had licensed the brand from Stelios’ easyGroup but things didn’t turn out so well. TDC got bought and changed their business strategy which made Stelios retract the brandname. In just 48 hours the German branch changed its name into callmobile. „You always have to be cautious that the franchisees don’t damage your established brand name“, Stelios said today.

Now he is planning to start a new MVNO under the name of easyMobile early next year. „The MVNOs brought the cell phone costs down but until now nobody offers completely free phone calls“, he said to me today. „People are used to pay for mobile communication and still cannot imagine that it could be free like televison.“ Therefore he is looking for the right partner to start a free phone calls MVNO, sponsored by advertising. A similar approach we already know from Blyk, a UK based start-up by the former president of Nokia Corporation, Pekka Ala-Pietilä, which is due to launch this summer.

Before every phone call Stelios wants to play an advertising message, which is not necessarily an easy business model, he admits. „To found a cheap MVNO is easy“, he says „but the trick is on the advertising side“. In his plans the advertising should be location based, at least on city level, and requires a lot of personalization. „A person that every thursday night orders at Pizza Hut could be played a Domino’s advertising“, he jokes. But to use all the personal data that’s necessary for such a service the new easyMobile needs ample permissions from its customers. „People are aware that they give away their data in exchange for free phone calls“, Stelios dismisses any doubts.

Actually he is looking for the right advertising partner to provide the necessary technology and data. He even asked me for a recommendation. When I mentioned Google/Doubleclick he said „yes, but Google today is very much into everything.“

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