Mobile Network The People's Operator Launches in the UK

Kirsty Styles

The UK’s first mobile network that says it puts people before profits has been launched in London today.

The People’s Operator (TPO) will give 25 per cent of its profits away to good causes, as well as enabling its customers to give a further 10 per cent of their call, text and data spend to a charity or community group of their choice. Organisations can also sign-up to receive 10 per cent of call, text and data spend when they get people to switch to TPO.

SIM and online-only

The company is offering SIM-only deals until 2013. According to its website, calls for pay-as-you-go customers will cost 12.5 p/m, compared to 25p on O2, Orange and Three, and 26p on Vodafone. Texts on the existing major networks cost 11-12p. TPO says its texts will cost just 7.5p. TPO to TPO customers will get free calls.

The online-only operator is offering 12.5p/MB of data, which will not be attractive for heavy data users, although they said that this would change when contracts are offered in the New Year. Tom Gutterridge, vice-chair and co-founder, said: "The telco market is a really hard market – if we don’t give good deals, it’s not going to work at all.

"We also knew we had to make it as easy as possible to make a difference. Every time you send a text or make a phone call, you know something different is going to happen.”

Working with the UK's largest network

TPC says that it is working with the ‘UK’s largest 2.5 and 3G network operator’, EE, to provide network coverage and will be upgrading to 4G when it become available.

They also said that they are ‘partnering with the biggest handset provider in the UK’ to offer the ‘full range of handsets’, although details of this are not yet available.

The venture was launched by TPO chair and co-founder Andrew Rosenfeld, a former property tycoon and VP of the NSPCC and chairman of the FULL STOP Fellowship.

He said: “This is a very different kind of operator to anything you’ve ever seen before. We thought, wouldn’t it be great to create a commercial structure that was driven by profit but also for the benefit of communities around the country? The more profit, the better it can be for people and communities around the country.”

Gutteridge also revealed that they are hoping to partner with corporates to help with CSR initiatives.

Esther Rantzen lends her support

Esther Rantzen, president of Childline and trustee of NSPCC, attended the launch and said: “It’s a tough time for charities – we have less money to play with, people are concerned about the future. It’s a stroke of genius that they can take the loyalty and commitment I have to my phone and give it to my local community.”

The 25 per cent is taken automatically and given to the TPO Foundation, which is chaired by Sir Christopher Kelly, who is also the chair of the Committee on Standards in Public Life and chair of the King’s Fund.

The foundation is already partnered with the NSPCC, the Trussell Trust, ChildLine, Islington Giving, Regenerate and Claxton House.

Greenwich Consulting comments

The launch of The People’s Operator is encouraging for the UK mobile landscape," said Greenwich Consulting managing director Fred Huet. "In such a competitive and overcrowded market, a key point of differentiation is crucial and TPO’s ethical foundation offers a refreshing alternative for mobile users today. With mobile services and devices today becoming increasingly commoditised, TPO have demonstrated a unique approach to stand apart from the competition.

"A combination of good deals, network coverage, customer support and commitment to the local community will provide an appealing incentive to mobile users but it is crucial that all ingredients are in place for this to be a success. Mobile users are unlikely to change operators en masse solely for a good cause and an array of benefits and attractive deals will be required in order to win over the hearts and minds of the UK consumer. But in this instance their likely success will very much depend on how strong their channel and distribution strategy is, along with all proposed partnerships."