Startups to Watch: Wadaro, monitoring mobile network and services performance.

We’ve all experienced it: you’re on a call, not moving around, just talking and the call drops, you check the signal level on the phone and it’s gone only to return to near full strength as you check.  Does the operator even know what’s just happened?  And then when you’re on the move, for example on the Gatwick Express (between London Gatwick Airport and Victoria Station), there are several points on the train ride where you see most people who are on the phone either start shouting at it or removing it from their ear to look at what’s going on.  The phone is an invaluable source of information on the status of the operator’s network, yet it remains an under-utilized asset in the fight to improve service levels on the most basic service.

This is the problem Wadaro addresses, monitoring network and service performance from the phone.  It’s embedded software on the phone, from a simple SIM (Subscriber Identity Module) application to a sophisticated OS (Operating System) application.  At the lowest end it just monitors the phone state when a call terminates, so its impact on the phone is not perceptible to the user, and it enables an operator to make its existing phone portfolio become part of the network, service and usage monitoring.  Network quality is important to customers, after price is the next decision criteria.

Operators in the US focus upon network quality as their core differentiation where they spend billions of dollars in building the brand and embedded their bylines in the public’s subconscious, e.g. for Verizon their byline is “the nation’s most reliable wireless network,” whilst AT&T’s is “the network with the fewest dropped calls.”  We’re also seeing operators such as O2 allow their business customers to see the status of their network, with services such as Network Manager GSM and Network Manager GPRS.  Extending that to the status and usage of the services their employees are receiving on their phones provides that last step which moves a ‘nice to have’ into a ‘must have’ differentiator.

Their application can also improve customer service.  For example, most customers have no idea what model their phone is. So when they call customer support, the first few minutes are a frustrating dialog of finding out who the customer is and what equipment they have. With Wadaro when the customer calls the support team, the CSR (Customer Service Representative) can know the phone model without asking the customer. Even if the customer has purchased their own unlocked phone elsewhere, the operator can still know the make, model and its performance history.  Next, the operator can proactively identify and remedy errors. If the Wadaro app is showing that the customer can’t connect to her email server or collect her MMS, the operator can stimulate device management to correctly configure her device.

The main challenge is getting the Wadaro application onto devices.  For new devices the software can be bundled on the SIM and/or phone.  For existing devices it’s a little more complex and will be dependent upon the operator’s OTA (Over The Air) capabilities and how aggressively the operator promotes the application and its benefits to customers.  Its one of those areas, where you’d think operators would already be using the phones on their network to let me know how things are working from a customer’s perspective.