As 2011 is advancing, operator’s strategies for this year appear more clearly and trends can already be spotted. One of the main lessons of these first months is the important activity surrounding MVNOs.
A MVNO, or mobile virtual network operator is a company that provides mobile phone services but does not own a licensed frequency of radio spectrum, nor does it necessarily have all of the infrastructure required to provide mobile telephone services.
MVNOs appeared in the early 2000s and there are now hundreds of them around the world, developed countries like USA, France or Germany having several dozens of them.
While Virtual Operators are not a new thing, there is a regain of activity around them as new technologies appear and telecommunication customers’ needs evolve and diversify, because these entities can offer more personalized services and approach targets that would be difficult to reach for the regular mobile network operators (MNOs).
In the UK for example, Everything Everywhere (the fusion of Orange and T-Mobile) is planning double digit growth in MVNOs over the next year as it launches an aggressive drive into the market. Jason Bellman, Everything Everywhere’s director of MVNO and wholesale operations, said ‘the operator is targeting the ethnic and b2b sectors’, where it is forecasting strong growth. It is also looking at ‘new commercial models that will move the traditional market forward’.
In the US, where the race for 4G is straining the network operators’ resources, structures are being reorganized. In their bid to keep up with the ambitious plans of the big two, smaller rivals are looking to cobble together combination of spectrum and MVNO partnerships. Sprint just announced they will provide 4G to their customers as MVNO on Clearwire’s WiMAX Network. These may enhance the scale and cost structure for Sprint but may also prove difficult to manage in future.
Additionally, some analysts see MVNO structure as a way for big actors like Google to enter the game of mobile communications. No official announcement supports this yet but the Internet giant has demonstrated in the past its ability to diversify with success.
One thing is certain, the MVNO model is nowadays attractive and a lot of activity is currently surrounding it. The participants to upcoming MVNO Industry Summit 2011 (held on 10th and 11th May in Barcelona) will certainly welcome these good news for their business.