Intelligent Network Selection

Hot Topic
Date: April 1, 2014

Founded in 2001, Devicescape is the world’s largest Wi-Fi service platform. The company offers a comprehensive product, effortlessly connecting users to virtual networks in unparalleled scale. Headquartered in San Bruno, California, Devicescape is privately held and backed by top tier investors to include Kleiner Perkins, August Capital and Jafco Ventures.

Devicescape’s CEO is Dave Fraser, who has been at the helm of the company since 2004. With over 30 years of experience, Fraser brings a thorough knowledge of software: from design and engineering to global marketing and strategic alliances. Previously, he worked for Wind River in several top positions, including Chief Marketing Officer and VP Engineering.

Building an access platform

Dave Fraser was instrumental in building Devicescape’s assets, raising capital and driving the strategy behind the company’s curated virtual network. This network is at the heart of its service access platform and enables the easy integration of devices with cloud-based applications and services.

Fraser likens it to a ‘chicken and egg’ dilemma. To build a network, you need a product in circulation, but to have a product the company needed a virtual network.

It took several years of hard work until the company made enough sales with its “relaxed value proposition” to execute its real business. In retrospect, Fraser says the process was difficult and time-consuming.

Today, it’s a different story. The network benefits from tens of millions of locations. This achievement has not gone unnoticed by the industry. In 2014, the company received an award at Mobile World Congress from for ‘best use of WiFi’. The company recently announced that Virgin Media has just signed a contract for the supply of their Wi-Fi service platform.

The attention is not hard to understand. When you add access, engagement and more importantly insight into the mix, Devicescape becomes a powerful analytic tool to track subscriber behavior. The company’s Wi-Fi Usage Reporting has become a core focus. Devicescape reporting gives operators the full picture of subscriber data usage, including private, public and amenity networks.

The data resulting from recent reports revealed interesting trends in mobile user behavior as well as Wi-Fi usage. Devicescape found that when customers upgrade from a 3G device to a 4G device, data usage increases irrespectively of plans. With customers upgrading every day, it’s an exciting time for the mobile industry at large.

A multi value proposition

Fraser notes, “the opportunity is absolutely stupendous for Devicescape. There is going to be billions of the devices. There are already billions in our total available market.” He concludes that each device represents a multi euro, pound or dollar value proposition per year.

Previously, the company built its business on the US market and a single product, ‘Wi-Fi offload’, which changed to ‘always best connect’.

Devicescape’s CEO is quick to admit that Wi-Fi offload is a term the company avoids referencing. Attitudes are changing towards disruptive business models. Fraser says that “Tier 1” operators are starting to become much more receptive. However, he adds “it takes a lot of explanation and a lot of very detailed analysis” to win these operators over.

Fraser believes this reluctance can be traced to country differences. There is a huge difference in the US market. “The rest of the world is more similar to each other” he says when compared to the US. While you can find big group brands in Europe, on an execution basis, it is divided into countries. These countries form semi or completely autonomous brands in themselves. The European market is defined by roaming and different markets. It is these differences Fraser says which make it a much more interesting market.

The bigger picture

Speaking about investors, Fraser said capital is definitely a focus for future expansion.

The company has benefited from its strong board, particularly since the appointment of Sir Arun Sarin, the former CEO of Vodafone group in 2013. His expertise in the industry and vast contact base has meant he has made invaluable introductions into the global operator community, as well as offering guidance on operator behaviors.

Fraser says Sir Arun has brought credibility and that “phenomenal, big…global picture of what our company could be,” which is essential for any growing company. However, the retired CEO was not initially convinced that the concept of a virtual network was going to be “technically or commercially viable”. Sir Arun Sarin took time to analyze Devicescape’s model before joining the board.

Fraser says the company is “fortunate to find investors that were aligned with our vision” and capable of making the sort of introductions that accelerated the business. Over time, he has realized the difference supportive investors can make. This support and flexibility has been critically important to Devicescape and its continued growth.

In the future, Devicescape wants its teams to be autonomous as possible. “When we are talking about expansion, we want that team to be fast” and be able to make local decisions. It is this broad framework, which will allow the company to expand, benefiting local customers in each market.

Moving mountains

At the end of 2013, Devicescape’s curated, virtual network had over 20 million locations and is expected to grow another ten million by the end of this year. With global expansion into Europe, Latin American markets and new territories, the company predicts it will hit 100 million locations by the end of 2017.

However, Fraser is adamant the company is just at the beginning of its value creation. Winning a fantastic customer roster in Latin America is a prime focus in the next months. Ultimately, the company wants to become an integral part of the way operators conduct their data business.

Becoming a global network that can move mountains is Fraser’s “inspirational goal”. With the recent media attention and the addition of Virgin Media as a customer, Devicescape is making strong progress.

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