It’d sound counter-intuitive, however Verizon’s plan to acquire Tracfone from América Móvil is music to the ears of Stephen Stokols.

Granted, it’s the most important service shopping for the most important MVNO. However Stokols, who simply joined Dish Community as government vice chairman of Enhance Cellular, sees the acquisition as a pleasant window for leaping into the Dish/Enhance fray. Stokols will lead gross sales, advertising, go-to-market technique and operations of the Enhance enterprise.

With Verizon and Tracfone targeted for the following 9 or so months on closing their as much as $6.9 billion transaction, they’re not more likely to be taking massive dangers. Long run, Verizon doesn’t have a prolonged observe report for pushing the envelope in pay as you go.

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“I feel there’s a possibility,” particularly with consolidation within the trade, Stokols instructed Fierce. “There’s actually a possibility to come back in and be a disruptor.”

Stephen Stokols
Stephen Stokols

Stokols is aware of one thing about disrupting the wi-fi market. In 2012, he based FreedomPop, an MVNO whose traders included Skype founder Niklas Zennstom. FreedomPop, which used Dash’s community, provided free cellular providers in the way in which Skype offered free voice and Spotify provided free music. Stokols stated it was providing a second line earlier than T-Cellular began advertising Digits, and information rollover earlier than all people else jumped on that practice.

Purple Pocket acquired FreedomPop last year. On the time, Stokols’ intent, working with non-public fairness teams, was to purchase Enhance. A pair months later, Dish “outfoxed all people” and did a fair larger deal.

Via the federal government’s treatment within the Dash/T-Cellular merger, T-Cellular was required to divest Dash’s Enhance and different pay as you go manufacturers; Dish closed on the $1.6 billion deal on July 1, 2020. Dish will use T-Cellular’s community below a good MVNO deal whereas it establishes its personal 5G community, which additionally will likely be accessible for Enhance subscribers.

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There are indications at Enhance that its enterprise is turning into extra rationalized. Beneath Dish’s possession, there’s been a big shift away from promotion of limitless plans into the course of plans with restricted quantities of information, usually 12GB-15GB allotments, in accordance with Jeff Moore, principal of Wave7 Analysis.

“Nevertheless, the DNA of Enhance Cellular has remained intact,” Moore stated. “The service continues to be feisty, promotional, and aggressive,” with efforts to “personal the mile” starting from door hangers and retailer occasions to “golden tickets” for lifetime reductions for switchers from Metro by T-Cellular and AT&T’s Cricket.  

A head begin – and massive aspirations

A yr in the past, after having achieved his due diligence in preparation for that ill-fated acquisition, Stokols had a whole lot of concepts for making Enhance a greater enterprise. Loads of these alternatives nonetheless exist right this moment, whether or not they’re about doing extra digitally or introducing extra revolutionary value-added providers to drive ARPU.

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Enhance launched within the U.S. about 19 years in the past with a daring perspective and an emphasis on the youth market. Whereas a few of that DNA stays,  the truth is, “we’re going to attempt to develop the enchantment of Enhance,” Stokols stated. “It’s received some good model fairness, however in the end, we’d prefer to make it rather more of a family identify” and enchantment to a broader viewers by means of aggressive pricing and expanded distribution.

“I feel there’s an enormous alternative to take a web page out of the FreedomPop playbook and actually construct out a really strong and best-in-class digital functionality,” particularly within the telco house the place the massive carriers should not excellent at digital, Stokols stated.

Shifting extra to a digital format isn’t a solely cheaper and a extra environment friendly technique to conduct enterprise, it’s being accelerated within the age of Covid. On the handset facet, the place the generational adjustments should not as marked as they was once, individuals are extra snug buying new fashions on-line with out having to do a take a look at run at a bodily retailer. There’s additionally the chance to advance using SIM and eSIM applied sciences with out having to carry a whole lot of machine stock.

Stokols relies in Los Angeles and Enhance’s authentic workplace is, conveniently, situated in Irvine, California. The plan is for him to maneuver to the Denver space full-time in 2021. He studies to John Swieringa, Dish group vice chairman, Retail Wi-fi and COO. David Kim, Dish SVP of retail wi-fi gross sales and operations, studies to Stokols. Kim, who was at Clearwire earlier than Dash, deserves a whole lot of credit score for constructing out Enhance and its distribution to what it’s right this moment, Stokols stated.

About that identify: FreedomPop. What does it imply precisely? Stokols stated the identify might need been too intelligent. The “Freedom” half is fairly clear. “Pop” refers back to the factors of presence time period that’s generally used within the wi-fi trade referring to coated inhabitants. However in the end, “I ended up explaining it greater than I in all probability ought to,” he stated.