This month saw the 16th annual MVNOs Europe event take place at the Victoria Park Plaza in London.
I was glad to connect with representatives from some of the region’s top virtual operators, network operators, tech vendors, and solution providers.
Here’s what I learned.
European MVNOs have been feeling the squeeze in recent years; the competitive environment is arguably tougher than ever.
With Roam Like at Home regulations, pre-paid SIM card registration requirements, and predatory takeovers by mobile network operators putting pressure on MVNOs, the sector has weathered a number of body blows.
With Roam Like at Home regulations, pre-paid SIM card registration requirements, and predatory takeovers by mobile network operators (MNOs) putting pressure on MVNOs, the sector has weathered a number of body blows.
In many markets, MNO sub-brands have moved to fill the vacuum.
CEO of Lycamobile Group Chris Tooley observed that MNOs in the UK wanted “to have their cake and eat it” by launching sub-brands. To the MNOs in attendance, he noted that the likes of SMARTY (Three), VOXI (Vodafone), and giffgaff (O2) are “doing the job your MVNOs should be doing for you.”
Tooley—whose own company has increasingly embraced data-driven offers to differentiate itself from tried-and-trusted international calling propositions—is aware that the market needs to evolve. Referencing “stagnation” in the sector and a need for “fresh impetus,” he indicated that Lycamobile’s next strategic play will see it target the unbanked.
The Internet of Things Revolution
The Internet of Things (IoT)-focused afternoon session compared cellular IoT use cases in major European markets.
The numbers are worth sharing. To give you a rough idea of the scale of the cellular IoT sector, at the end of 2018:
- The UK accounted for 8 million IoT accounts.
- Germany was Europe’s largest IoT market with 23 million IoT subscribers, narrowly ahead of Italy, which claimed 21 million.
- Europe accounted for around 140 million IoT accounts.
- The U.S. boasted nearly 113 million IoT accounts, of which AT&T accounted for more than 51 million connected devices.
- The number of M2M accounts in China surpassed 760 million. And, of this figure, China Mobile—the world’s largest mobile operator—claimed 551 million M2M connections. This is after adding more than 320 million IoT accounts year-on-year. Indeed, China Mobile says the number of M2M connections exceeds that of human-to-human connections in some cities and provinces.
- The cellular IoT market passed the 1 billion mark and is now expected to pass 4 billion by 2024.
It’s clear that the IoT sector represents a major business opportunity in the telecom space.
5G: The Future is Now
During the panel “5G Licences as a Game Changer for MVNOs” I was joined by Vice President of MVNO Europe Innocenzo Genna, CEO of German MVNOs Newsim and EasyTel Norbert Schuppler, and CEO of Brazil’s Telecall Allan Ajuz for a riveting discussion.
We scrutinized 5G licensing; European spectrum auctions; a lack of mandated access for MVNOs; the challenges of deploying open-access wholesale networks; IoT opportunities and network slicing.
It’s been three years since I first moderated a 5G-themed panel at a London-based MVNO event and the conversation has changed dramatically. 5G is now a reality for MNOs in the U.S., Asia, Europe, and the Middle East.
It’s been three years since I first moderated a 5G-themed panel at a London-based MVNO event and the conversation has changed dramatically. 5G is now a reality for MNOs in the U.S., Asia, Europe, and the Middle East and MVNOs are waiting patiently in the wings for 5G access.
The future has arrived and Europe’s MVNOs don’t want to be left behind.
Tom Leins is a Senior Research Analyst for TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database. Based out of the company’s UK office, he also contributes to the company’s daily CommsUpdate newsletter, which includes his popular weekly MVNO Monday round-up. MVNO industry aside, Tom has developed a strong specialization in the U.S., Latin America, and the Caribbean, tracking mergers and acquisitions, spectrum auctions, regulatory developments, market opportunities, and growth trends.