New Australian telco Yatango Mobile is betting on social networking integration and a high-level of user control over spend to differentiate itself in the crowded mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) space.
The telco, which launched yesterday on the Optus network, requires users to sign up through Facebook and offers subscribers a range of methods for obtaining mobile credit or discount calling rates, such as connecting with other Yatango members who are part of their network and signing up new members.
Yatango is also pushing self-service through a sophisticated Web-based control panel and community-backed support. Although the telco has a Zendesk-based customer service operation, it also rewards community members for helping other users with their queries.
"When I looked at this industry what became very clear is that people hate the telcos more than they hate the banks," Yatango Mobile CEO Andy Taylor said.
"The industry has thrived on complexity, lack of transparency, and, basically fear."
"When you break it down what telcos basically sell is an insurance policy in the form of a cap plan that if you break that cap plan they absolutely hammer you, so bill shock is rife," Taylor said.
Taylor said that telcos profit from the fear of bill shock, with many customers over-purchasing on their mobile plans — buying caps offering more data, voice and text than most will ever use.
Yatango only offers SIMs, with plans able to operate using prepaid/post-paid billing or pay as you go (PAYG). The telco doesn't offer contracts or handsets.
Using a slider-based Web interface customers can adjust the amount of voice minutes, text messages, data and international voice minutes they purchase each month; after exceeding the purchased limit, billing reverts to Yatngo's standard PAYG rates.
The telco plans to introduce a recommendation system based on individual users' usage patterns, recommending either increasing or decreasing their monthly purchase of voice, text and data.
Using the slider-based interface, users can also decrease their pre-purchased monthly quotas to zero, which Taylor said would be useful if they are going on an overseas trip, for example.
Yatango was founded about a year ago Taylor said, with angel funding sourced from within Australia. The telco is eyeing chances to take the social/user-control model internationally and has held talks with at least two overseas carriers. Taylor also said that a 4G offering is "coming soon".
Follow Rohan on Twitter: @rohan_p