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Jeff Kagan: How MVNO and 5G Are Changing Wireless

Let's take a closer look at the MVNO slice of the wireless industry. Who are the leaders and is this segment of mobile growing or cresting?
Equities columnist Jeff Kagan is a telecom, technology and wireless analyst and consultant. He covers 5G, AI, IoT, the metaverse, autonomous driving, healthcare, telehealth, pay TV and more. Follow him at and on Twitter @jeffkagan and LinkedIn.
Equities columnist Jeff Kagan is a telecom, technology and wireless analyst and consultant. He covers 5G, AI, IoT, the metaverse, autonomous driving, healthcare, telehealth, pay TV and more. Follow him at and on Twitter @jeffkagan and LinkedIn.

The wireless industry continues to grow and to change. Wireless as a whole is stronger than ever. One slice of the pie, the MVNO space or pre-paid wireless space also continues to show strong growth with several key brands. So, let’s take closer a look at the rapidly changing MVNO market and what we can expect going forward.

The top player in this market is Cricket Wireless from AT&T. This is an MVNO-like company that is owned and operated by AT&T. It provides excellent quality on the same wireless network AT&T Mobility operates. There are a variety of wireless data usage levels the customer can choose from. This is a lower cost pre-paid service compared with the traditional post-paid service. AT&T has several different pre-paid brands.

AT&T Cricket Wireless and Verizon Visible are top MVNO-like providers

Verizon has also jumped into the MVNO-like market. In fact, they just introduced the Visible brand last year. This uses the Verizon Network, so it too should have great quality. What makes Visible different is the way they market. You cannot walk into a store and buy this service. It is marketed virtually. That’s an interesting new slice to the wireless marketing pie. Verizon has several different pre-paid brands.

Comcast Xfinity Mobile is showing strong growth, but they do not market the same way as other wireless competitors. Xfinity Mobile is an MVNO reselling Verizon Wireless. They have a great quality signal and offer a simple choice when you sign up. There are two levels of wireless data to choose from. They have been offering wireless for a year and a half and seem to be hitting the ball out of the park.

Xfinity Mobile, Spectrum Mobile are MVNO from Verizon Wireless

Charter Spectrum Mobile is similar. They are an MVNO and also resell Verizon Wireless. They entered the wireless space about six months ago. We don’t yet know how well they are doing, but I expect them to be as successful as Xfinity Mobile. They seem to be very aggressive marketers in their early rollout stages.

Altice Mobile is the third largest cable television company and they plan to enter the wireless space later this year. They will resell Sprint as an MVNO. This is a different carrier than Xfinity Mobile and Spectrum Mobile. That means we will have to wait and see how well this service works and how well customers like it.

It will be very interesting to see how Xfinity Mobile, Spectrum Mobile and Altice Mobile impact the larger wireless industry. Today, they don’t market the same way other wireless carriers do. Today, they offer wireless as another leg on the stool that helps them keep their customers as new pay TV competitors continue to be introduced.

Altice Mobile will be MVNO from Sprint

So, as you can see, wireless is growing and expanding. Between the major competitors like AT&T Mobility, Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile and Sprint, and their MVNO-like services Cricket, Visible and others, and new competitors like Xfinity Mobile, Spectrum Mobile and Altice Mobile, the mobile space will continue to grow and to change.

Plus, there are plenty of other MVNO providers as well with names like Consider Consumer Cellular, TracFone, Google Fi, which used to be called Project Fi, and more. I expect this list of competitors to keep increasing.

Consumer Cellular, Google Fi, TracFone and other MVNO providers

These can offer good quality service, but several of them have quality of call issues, smaller wireless data limits and pricing issues.

While many of their customers have enough wireless data, others run out before the end of the month. When that happens, they are reduced to a very slow connection.

I expect the number of competitors in the wireless and MVNO space to continue to increase. Remember several years ago how Facebook and Amazon tried to enter the smartphone space? Back then they failed, but interest is still there. Could they make another attempt? I wouldn’t be surprised.

5G will accelerate the pace of change in wireless

Plus, with 5G coming on strong, expect to see many other companies in other industries enter wireless the same way Uber and Lyft did several years ago. They transformed the traditional taxi cab and limousine industry. I expect the same thing to continue with other new companies in other industries.

Wireless is a growth engine and that will only continue. Perhaps the growth rate of Apple iPhone and Google Android will slow. That seems to be happening now. However, the larger wireless space will only increase in importance as we move ahead.

Any way we slice it, wireless is the center of the universe going forward. It has been and will remain one of the most interesting spaces. And wireless is now expanding into other industries. Expect even more transformation from other companies like we have seen with Uber and Lyft.

Yes, I expect 2019 will be an exciting time for wireless as an industry. That means carriers, smartphone makers, other companies in other industries who will use wireless to grow, and so much more. Wireless has grown over recent decades, but that will be nothing compared to what we will see going forward.

Jeff Kagan
is an columnist. Kagan is a Wireless Analyst, Telecom Analyst,
Industry Analyst, speaker and consultant. He follows wireless, wire line,
telecom, Internet, cable TV, IPTV, Cloud, Mobile Pay, FinTech and
communications technology. Email him at [email protected]. His web site is Follow him on Twitter @jeffkagan.

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