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Understanding MVNOs: The US and European Case studies

Posted in The Technology Ecosystem by Manas Ganguly on March 22, 2010

The second coming of MVNOs in US

On Monday, Sprint said has signed deals with four MVNO partners interested in offering post paid wireless services under their own brand – Long Distance Consolidated Billing Company (LDCB), NPG Cable, Call One and Baja Broadband. NPG will offer a quad play bundle combining video, internet, home phone and cell phone service, while Chicago-based Call One will offer a single source for integrating voice, data, video and internet services with phone systems and network equipment, wiring, installation and management. Baja Broadband will enhance its broadband cable system in New Mexico, Colorado, Utah and Nevada and LDCB will bolster its wire line long-distance service with wireless.

The US versus Europe MVNO Debate

This is good news for MVNOs after almost being written off from the map of United States. So is this the second coming of MVNOs or is it just consolidation after the end of the initial hype. Contrary to the US markets, the UK and European Markets have successful examples of MVNOs and MVNAs running. In Europe Tesco Mobile is major player, but we haven’t seen the same model succeed in the US which also has large volume retailers like Win Dixie, Wal Mart, Target and others. Amongst others, ESPN Mobile and Disney Mobile have failed in US and Virgin Mobile is struggling. In the UK, Virgin Mobile is a major mobile brand.

The one difference that seems to emerge between the US and the European markets is that the Europeans seem to be able to stick to a business plan that caters to a niche. The US investors have been overeager to dominate a whole country when they should be content with one or two states or categories.

So what’s working and what’s not

The strategy of adding value through price is not going to last long, if it hasn’t passed already.

The MVNO model is alive and well in Europe and what is really promising over there, as in the US, is that network operators are behind the model now rather than fighting it. Over time this will lead to greater access and control to the underlying infrastructure for the MVNO, giving the capability for further innovation which, is really where the MVNO model will thrive and have a big impact on the industry as a whole. Opening up and allowing more control of the underlying network and its capabilities will essentially allow the MVNO to act as another service layer with which to develop and offer more innovative products and services particularly in the apps space. In my opinion the products and services in the broader market today really are just at the tip of the iceberg in terms of how telecommunications can help us in our everyday lives

The stunted growth in terms of innovation so far, would be to do with protectionism by operators, or the walled garden approach as it’s become known.

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