Facebook reinventing itself as a MVNO. Hahaha, remember Amp’d Mobile?

It was about five years ago and the next big thing was mobile video, all times of mad deals were being done and I was sitting in an unbelievably plush office in Los Angeles.

As I waited with my delightfully named colleague Ari Honka for our meeting, I remarked to him that the office looked familiar somehow. Then the phone rang with that ringtone known to watchers of the TV series 24 and it all became clear… we were actually in the office where 24 was filmed. How cool was that?

Our meeting was with a MVNO called Amp’d Mobile. They’d raised an unbelievable $360 million from the likes of MTV and Universal and they were offering 3G and mobile content to that all-important young demographic. They were cool, they had 24’s offices ffs, they had money, they were hot. We at Player X, on the other hand, were also hot.

We had done a deal with Hollywood studio Paramount to make a series of ‘mobisodes’ based on Miami Vice and Knight Rider, we were going into that meeting to do a deal and when their ears definitely pricked up when we mentioned the assocaition with David Hasselhoff.

“Yes, Hasselhoff was been very successful for us. Only last week we sold six pictures of him from our decks.”

“Wow, that’s not bad, six thousand, what was the rev share for you guys?”

“No, not six thousand… six.”

They were getting excited about six downloads and at that moment we both knew that Amp’d Mobile was a crock. Three months later on 21, July, 2007 it was all over, Amp’d Mobile sent out this message, a third of a billion dollars down the pan:

“Your svc may be disconnected on 7.24 @ 12:01 am. Go to www.ampd.com or contact the location where you activated your service for further information.”

Ari and I got a cab back to the Mondrian to meet up with our CEO Tony Pearce and the three of us got plastered at Barney’s Beanery, laughing about this insane world we were and that some companies were even more unrealistic than we were, it was like being part of the tulip craze in Holland.

So, it was with great glee this week when I read a report saying that the only way Facebook will do anything with mobile was if it reinvented itself as a MVNO. With their so-called billion users and a default communication tool for young people who regard Facebook as *being* the internet, at first it seems almost sensible.

Presently customers buy data package from operators to access Facebook, but Facebook gets no dosh from this traffic, only a residual ad revenue from the small number of users who click on ads. If Facebook did a deal with an operator, it could change the whole way it gets money out of mobile such as offering mobile SIM cards, packages for social games.

Blah-blah-blah, that sounds as smart as going to IPO on the back of a billion dollar purchase of Instagram signed by the CEO and not presented to the board. If Facebook became a MVNO the operator that was stupid enough to offer spectrum would be finished.

Furthermore Facebook would spend so much money trying to make it work that its botched IPO would be nothing in comparison. It would rent offices such as Amp’d Mobile’s 24 office and show off that its new offering was successful, it would be hilarious to watch, it might even make some ex-Amp’d staff hires.

What it should do is just leave mobile well alone. Make the site subscription for a few dollars a year and just let operators be the channel to its existing business. Forget MVNOs and just remain a place for show-offs to give away their content for free.

But, anyway, it was great to be reminded of Amp’d and those two jokers who bragged about six downloads, where are they now, I wonder? Yahoo? Hahahaha…

Monty (627 Posts)

Monty Munford has more than 15 years' experience in mobile, digital media, web and journalism. He is the founder of Mob76, a company that helps tech companies raise money and exit. He speaks regularly at global media events with a focus on Africa, writes a weekly column for The Telegraph, is a regular contributor to The Economist, Wired, Mashable and speaks regularly on the BBC World Service.


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About Monty

Monty Munford has more than 15 years' experience in mobile, digital media, web and journalism. He is the founder of Mob76, a company that helps tech companies raise money and exit. He speaks regularly at global media events with a focus on Africa, writes a weekly column for The Telegraph, is a regular contributor to The Economist, Wired, Mashable and speaks regularly on the BBC World Service.