An article in Wireless Week announces the creation of a new species: a health care MVNO named LifeComm. LifeComm promises to move disease management, wellness, and fitness into new territories.
What is a MVNO?
More acronyms! What is a MVNO? A Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) is a mobile operator that does not own its own spectrum and usually does not have its own network infrastructure. Instead, MVNOs have business arrangements with traditional mobile operators to buy minutes of use (MOU) for sale to their own customers.
You’ve seen MVNOs advertised on TV: Amp’d Mobile, Disney Mobile, ESPN Mobile.
What Will the LifeComm MVNO Do?
Here’s some information from the Wireless Week article:
The new company, which was incorporated recently under the name LifeComm, was created by QUALCOMM and several other, unnamed, partners. Don Jones, who is vice president of business development for QUALCOMM’s’ health and life sciences unit, says the MVNO likely will launch commercially sometime in the second half of 2008.
“We don’t see it as just health care,” he says, because the MVNO also will offer services for wellness, fitness, and health maintenance.
The specific applications and services the MVNO will offer have not been determined, but Jones says the company wants to establish a brand known to provide services for anyone interested in his or her health. The target audience, he says, is predominantly going to be women ages 40 to 65 because they are “influencers” when it comes to health.
Services could involve fitness, weight management or reduction, diabetes management, and monitoring heart health, including hypertension and congestive heart disease.
Putting a MVNO together is a lot of work.
- Developing the business deal. Don Jones, a health care industry veteran and deal maker extraordinaire, has been talking about LifeComm for over a year. A lot of work has already been done to put this together.
- Integrating backend applications. Today, there are many niche companies offering specialized applications targeting specific wellness, fitness and DM applications. For example, HealthPia offers a diabetic phone, MyFoodPhone offers nutritional guidance, and CardioNet offers mobile cardiac monitoring. Presumably LifeComm would develop a technological platform to integrate these types of disparate applications.
- Creating and rolling out retail marketing campaigns. A MVNO is a marketing vehicle to aggregate subscribers. We should expect to see LifeComm heavily advertised. Don’t be surprised if someday LifeComm runs SuperBowl commercials. Of course, retail advertising is very expensive and raises the stakes of the game.
Is this a big deal?
Short-term: put LifeComm on your “watchful waiting” list. The business deal is still being finalized, it will take a while to develop and tweak the applications, and signing up subscribers is a long-term proposition.
Long-term: definitely, YES!
- LifeComm is a major sign of disease management going mobile and going retail.
- MyFoodPhone’s slide presentation characterizes this trend as “the doctor in your pocket.”
- There are no boundaries. Expect LifeComm to move to international markets.
- Remote patient monitoring (RPM) is moving beyond the elderly and homebound. To date, most RPM activities have focused on sicker, elderly, and/or homebound patients. LifeComm is a major effort to move RPM into the mainstream and into the community.
What other questions come to mind?
- Will LifeComm offer a specialized health phone? or will the service work with ordinary cellular phones?
- How much of LifeComm will be B2C? B2B? While most MVNOs are targeted directly to consumers, LifeComm could also market their offering to health plans, disease management companies, and other integrators of care management services.
- Who will be investors and/or partners in LifeComm? So far we don’t know.
- Will LifeComm play nicely with the other kids in the sand box? Will LifeComm unfold as a proprietary service or as an open, interoperable offering? As of today (May 17) QUALCOMM is not on the membership list of Continua Alliance. Continua’s, which has 100+ members, is focused on “fostering independence through establishing a system of personal telehealth solutions that empower people and organizations to better manage health and wellness”.
- Should we expect a GSM competitor (e.g., AT&T, T-Mobile) to enter the market? LifeComm has an agreement with a CDMA wireless carrier. The Wireless Week article notes that LifeComm plans to use QUALCOMM’s BREW platform, which is used by Verizon Wireless.
Welcome to the world, LifeComm!
For further reading:
- Qualcomm backing a Health focused MVNO, GigaOM
- Qualcomm Plans Healthcare MVNO, mocoNews.net
- Qualcomm to Launch healthcare centered MVNO, nclub NOKIA.net
- Qualcomm plans health-care-focused MVNO, Shop Talk
- Qualcomm Plans Healthcare And Wellness MVNO, InformationWeek
- Qualcomm’s MVNO, healthcare’s the hook, Fierce Wireless