Rave Wireless at the Digital Youth Summit

This year's Telco 2.0 Executive Brainstorm is rushing up at us with telco-shattering force again, and that means it's also soon going to be time for a 'Summit' session focused on the 'Digital Youth' market. Pushing on the debate from the last session in March, we've invited some interesting people to tackle in more detail the paradox of a market segment that's neophilic and increasingly rich (in mature markets at least), but is also dramatically turned off by obvious efforts to appeal to it. For example, there's Raju Rishi, COO and co-founder of US-based company Rave Wireless.

Rave gets around the paradox by primarily doing business with universities and schools, not with the youths themselves; essentially it's a MVNE (Mobile Virtual Network Enabler) that creates micro-MVNOs for these institutions, buying bulk capacity from whichever carrier suits. The carrier gets a targeted marketing effort to shift bits, and the institution doesn't just make a turn on the deal, but also gets to chuck out its desk phones without needing to buy a ton of SIP or UMA devices and a huge LAN upgrade. You can do that when you are your own telco.

There are also some interesting new applications that the institution gets to do, which tend to keep students from churning away; as Rishi points out in an interesting article here, SMS alerts are ideally suited to communicating with the students because everyone uses SMS and everyone pays attention to SMS. Campus security, something of a current preoccupation, is a key Rave application.

But there's a clear risk here; if you either are the "official mobile network", or just look like it, you could become very unfashionable indeed. Especially if your USP is that you deliver lots of text alerts from The Authorities. Marketers to students regularly underestimate their market; putting a lava lamp and pizza vouchers next to your product will not overcome its failings. Having taken this warning to heart, what can we do more positively?

Another speaker at the event, BT Global Services CIO J.P. Rangaswami, thinks he knows. He argues that we've gone from a "garage generation", when it took months to years to develop software in the proverbial garage, to a "pyjama generation" for whom Web-based tools and powerful scripting languages make it possible to rustle something up in hours. Yet again, it looks like telcos are just going to have to embrace the hackers; we still need an API for telecoms.

In the context of creating new business models for this critical market, the
Digital Youth Summit will also be looking at: social networking (particularly the phenomenon of Facebook), Mobile Internet, Mobile Music, creative access
methods (opportunities from femtocells), and trends in device form factors. The final agenda will be up on the site next week, once we've finished briefing the stimulus presenters...