Technology Journalist and Copywriter

Kate O'Flaherty


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Consumer brands are missing an MVNO opportunity

By kateoflaherty, Jan 23 2013 11:26AM

There was a time when the mobile industry thought every brand would launch an MVNO. From Marks & Spencer through to Waitrose and even Manchester Football Club, the rumours were rife.

But the mobile industry's predictions often come early. Just look at mobile payments; the market has been pushing 'the year of NFC' for around four years now.

And after Phones 4u launched its own MVNO yesterday - arguably two years too late - talk began to circulate again. Everything Everywhere, the wholesale provider of Phones 4u's new network, began hinting that it was talking to other brands about launching an MVNO.

There are already more mobile networks than you might think. Carphone Warehouse has its own offering, Talk Mobile; Virgin Media of course also has an Everything Everywhere MVNO; Asda has a Vodafone MVNO; and Tesco Mobile runs on the O2 network. To top it all off, the spectrum action - taking place as we speak - is seeing new mobile operators bid for the rights to new airwaves.

If these networks too choose to provide wholesale networks to brands, the MVNO could really take off in the consumer space, with names such as Topshop or even bands or football clubs launching their own offerings. After all, a specifically-targeted MVNO has a perfectly honed customer base to market to.

The b2b MVNO market is already diversifying, with many small businesses entering wholesale agreements with the big mobile operators. Charities are also gradually entering the fray, while the international calling market is well covered.

Those who take an early advantage in the consumer space could be onto a winner. With big data analytics a real coup for Tesco, which can use Clubcard data to market to customers, it is surprising that more supermarkets don't have MVNOs. As the spectrum auction takes off and 4G becomes a reality, perhaps all the big brands needed was a little push.

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