MVNOs to outnumber mobile network operators in 2013
World now home to 602 virtual mobile operators; Middle Eastern market in particular shows signs of growth.
The number of mobile virtual network operators in the world now exceeds 600 and at current growth rates will surpass the number of mobile network operators in mid-2013, according to new research published Thursday.
35 new MVNOs launched globally in the first half of this year, in addition to the 76 market newcomers that sprang up in 2009, Wireless Intelligence reported. The number of network operator sub-brands is also growing; 14 operator-owned brands came to market last year and a further five this year as telcos increasingly aim to target specific market segments.
"Western Europe remains the predominant region for MVNOs with 357, or 59%, of the 602 MVNOs identified, while North America and Asia Pacific have 72 each (12%) and Eastern Europe 34 (6%)," said Jon Groves, analyst at Wireless Intelligence, in a statement.
Groves noted that the Americas and the Middle East and Africa have only a handful of MVNOs between them, due to regulatory restrictions, lack of available spectrum, and lack of support from mobile network operators. "However, recent signs point to changing attitudes to MVNOs among regulators and operators in these regions that should encourage their expansion," he said.
Indeed, the Middle East got its first MVNOs just last year when four launched in Oman. As a result, incumbent Omantel, which runs a mobile network under the Oman Mobile brand, reported that 57% of its net mobile customer additions in 2009 came through its MVNO partners.
One of the four, FRiENDi Mobile (which claims to have signed up 150,000 users in its first 12 months), also launched in Jordan last week, according to Wireless Intelligence, making Jordan the second country in the region to witness an MVNO launch. Also this week, Israel issued its first MVNO licence to Telecom 365, which plans to launch next year.
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