MVNO Red Pocket experiments with bring-your-own visual voicemail

With voicemail you pretty much get what you pay for: a service that mobile operators give their customers for free hasn’t really evolved since its introduction. Mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) Red Pocket Mobile, however, is providing an alterative to its standard touchtone mailbox, working with visual voicemail developer YouMail.

Red Pocket isn’t so much contracting with YouMail as it is removing the obstacles preventing third-party voicemail services from working on Red Pocket phones. Since MVNOs don’t run their own networks (Red Pocket buys minutes and megabytes from AT&T(s t)) they usually don’t support the call forwarding features that would allow a third-party voicemail platform to work. Red Pocket is lifting that call-forward restriction to let YouMail’s Android(s goog), iPhone(s aapl) and Windows Phone 7(s msft) apps work on its customers’ handsets.

It’s an ideal setup for Red Pocket since it’s primarily a SIM-card service provider, selling prepaid buckets of domestic and international minutes, text messages and data to customers who bring their own devices. Rather than keep investing in antiquated mailbox servers – or shell out the money for a new visual voicemail platform – it can simply let customers choose their own voicemail provider, just like they choose their own email providers and social networks.

YouMail’s free basic service gives customers a universal cloud mailbox that can be accessed from any mobile or PC browser, and its smartphone app can download voice messages, caller ID and caller photos into its mailbox. Its premium service not only provides more cloud storage, but has a speech-to-text function that will transcribe any message into a text file.

I would expect more MVNOs to follow in Red Pocket’s footsteps. In fact, it probably won’t be long before some MVNOs start abandoning their old voicemail services completely. Rural operator Viaero has started preloading YouMail on its Android handsets, and Pennsylvania’s Immix wireless has retired its old mailbox servers, relying solely on YouMail.