Updated: Feb 10
Another year has passed and we find ourselves at CES and other events looking into our crystal ball and trying to see where the MVNO business will take us in 2022.
We’ve already seen the demise of one MVNO (Easy Go) and anxiously await to see what Verizon will do with TracFone and the brands that don’t currently operate on their network. Will Charter and Comcast continue to put on record wireless activations with their current cable customers through Spectrum and Xfinity? What does DISH Networks do with three brands now (Boost Mobile, Republic Wireless, and GenMobile)?
5G, 5G, and more 5G; that’s all everyone is talking about. New entrants are trying to enter the MVNO game with the explosion of IoT applications and smaller cable companies may look to emulate Charter and Comcast.
Yes, Change is Coming
I have written over the past few months that our current MVNOs cannot afford to be complacent and continue on the business paths that many have followed over the past several years. Customers are demanding network speed and enough data (or truly unlimited data) to work remotely, stream content, and game, all from their wireless devices. The MNOs have made it clear that 5G is available to their MNVOs upon their rollout but “network optimization” will still loom large for MVNOs who sell smaller data packages and whose customers might exceed their data allotment leading to slower speeds.
If we learned one thing in 2020-2021 about wireless connectivity during the pandemic, it’s that big data buckets and speed are critical to subscribers. With many two household earners working from home and an incredible number of schools and colleges going back to remote learning, the opportunity for stepping your customers up to larger data plans is upon you.
It’s SO Confusing!
If you look at Verizon, T-Mobile, or AT&T’s websites on any given day, a truly Unlimited Data plan will cost about $80 before taxes and fees for one line. This is when you sign up for autopay and paperless billing. Meanwhile, Straight Talk has the same plan currently at $45 and is prepaid. Where it gets a little confusing is when one company says “truly unlimited” while others say 30GB or 50GB of high-speed data (insinuating that you WILL be slowed down after exceeding these buckets). What should you do?
Talk to your customers. What is their current data usage (if they don’t know it’s most likely stored on their handset). Their usage patterns are not going to change dramatically just because they are porting over to your service. If they need a hotspot or live in a rural area, sell them the rate plan that meets THEIR NEEDS, not yours. Most importantly, successful MVNOs, no matter how big or small, should be speaking with their MNO or aggregator on a regular basis and should have a good working relationship. Talk to them about adding features or incentives around additional data that you could pass on to your heavy users.
What you negotiated two years ago might not work for everyone in today’s world. Carriers want to keep the business you’ve brought them, work together to get creative as one size doesn’t fit all.
What to Expect This Year
So that brings us back to 2022 and what we think the MVNO landscape will look like. Companies like Earthlink have entered the wireless business, not as an MVNO but in partnership with Ultra Mobile under the Powered by Ultra model, and I expect many more with a large base of subscription-type customers will follow. IoT centric MVNOs will continue to grow as the industry forecasts 25 billion IoT connections in the next three years. MVNOs from Mexico and Canada will enter the United States market (we are already talking to some) and traditional MVNOs and upstarts will still try to compete on price, demographics, ethnicities, and other differentiators. But if our MVNOs are not innovating on their value proposition and cost structures, changes to their businesses will come sooner rather than later.
I spoke this week with Scott Venuti, Vice President of Strategic Partnerships with Plum, one of T-Mobile’s aggregators, on his thoughts for the coming year. Scott stated, "In addition to existing service providers at Plum we believe that you will see many businesses, brands, influencers, etc., outside of the services space look to tie a mobile offering to their brand. White label or "Powered by" offerings will allow companies to enter the mobile space, leveraging their brand while not having to go through all the steps to become a full-fledged MVNO."
"We believe that wireless is the next diversification play for many ISPs and other tech brands….increasingly, we also see non-tech brands, influencers, and others looking to tie a mobile offering to their brand. The ease of marketing and selling online and the continuing popularity of bring your own device allows brands to get into the space with very little overhead."
I wrote last month about our current MVNOs having a head start and knowledge base about the wireless business and that those looking to enter have a long learning curve ahead of themselves.( Why Are There So Many MVNO’s? - BestMVNO) Now is the time for you to capitalize on your years of experience in our industry and to build and innovate on what you are currently doing. I’d love to hear from you and help you with differentiation, distribution, and the coming wave of new MVNOs that will definitely change the landscape as we now know it. Reach us at https://atriumunlimited.com/
As we exit 2021 and enter the New Year, here is a link to all of my articles that appeared in BestMVNO in the past year. I’d like to thank everyone for their comments, suggestions, and recommendations and hope that you found value in what we discussed around the MVNO world. Atrium Unlimited Consulting would love to assist you in growing your MVNO business and help others get started in our space. Please enjoy reviewing my previous articles and let us know how we can help YOU in our ever-changing and growing business.