10/16/2015 12:21:04 PM
The mutating MVNO market
The times they are a changing
It used to be that all you needed for a successful MVNO was a nice consumer facing brand, some strong marketing and low prices. Virgin and then Tesco’s both showed how successfully this formula could gain traction within the market. Whilst the likes of Lebara and Lycamobile demonstrated how adding one significant service differentiator could remove the need for a well-known brand. However, things have become a lot harder and more complex with margins for networks tighter than ever, the value in minutes and texts falling through the floor and international calling no longer as difficult as it once was. These changes have made it hard for the current incumbents in the market and paved the way for a new breed of MVNO…
Setting up an MVNO in the UK has always been a relatively easy process, most of the negotiations take place with the host network as there is no regulatory procedure for new entrants to the market. This has meant that global MVNOs such as Freedom Pop and Rok Mobile have been able to come to the UK faster than in other geographies. It’s been sped up by the actions of Three who have been encouraging MVNO’s onto its data centric network. These businesses work on razor thin margins with a Ryanair style approach to generating revenue from a wide range of sources; from security to music streaming. Their agility and low cost set up threatens the business models of MVNO’s and MNO’s in equal measure. They also pave the way for the even more revolutionary possibility of an Apple or Facebook MVNO coming to market quickly and cheaply
Dark network forces
Conspiracy theories abound regarding the role of the networks in the changing MVNO market. Talk Talk have been the most vocal in this, accusing Vodafone of plotting to withdraw from the MVNO space. All the networks including Vodafone strongly deny that they have sought to supress the MVNO market. There is certainly game playing from both sides of the debate and wholesale relationships in most markets are complex. The truth is that both parties face a battle from the new breed of MVNOs entering the market.