GSMA Intelligence said the number of mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) worldwide increased by 70 per cent between June 2010 and June 2015, reaching 1,017 as of June this year.
At the same time, the research company noted in its latest MVNO tracker that 210 players have either merged or ceased business over the past 15 years, indicating that the MVNO business carries a certain amount of risk and requires careful planning with a good business model in place.
Indeed, GSMA Intelligence said that EBITDA margins reported by MVNOs are notoriously low. Its analysis of the latest reported figures shows that the margins of virtual players "tend to stall within negative territory". Across the 20 operators worldwide that reported EBITDA between 2013 and 2015, quarterly EBITDA margin stood at –260 per cent on average, the company added.
As things stand, MVNOs are mostly present in the developed world, which accounts for almost four out of five MVNOs globally. Although the number of MVNOs has more than doubled in the developing world over the past five years, their presence in such markets remains limited. As of June 2015, MVNOs are in over 30 countries across the developing region, up from 13 countries in June 2010.
The report further noted that the 10 countries with the largest number of MVNOs in the developed region are Germany (129), the U.S. (108), the UK (76), the Netherlands (56), France (49), Australia (43), Denmark (43), Spain (35), Belgium (26) and Japan (23). Within the developing region, the five countries with the greatest number of MVNOs are Poland (27), Russia (16), Malaysia (13), China (11) and Chile (8).
GSMA Intelligence added that there is a third geographical category called "international players", which covers those companies that mainly target roamers and are not market-specific. International MVNOs accounted for 11 per cent of all MVNOs worldwide as of June 2015.
Looking ahead, the research company said it expects more countries to allow MVNOs to launch services in future, but notes that MVNO presence will remain mostly in the developed region. Future growth for these companies could be sustained by the adoption of alternative business models, it added. Such models could include a focus on mobile broadband connectivity, digital content, digital commerce and money services, communities, and solutions for the Internet of Things (IoT).
- see this GSMA Intelligence report (sub. req.)
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