Can a new generation of MVNOs shake up the market?

When you think of MVNOs in the U.S. market, the first companies you might turn to are failed ones like Amp'd Mobile and Disney Mobile. Or perhaps highly successful ones like América Móvil's TracFone, the MVNO behind the Straight Talk unlimited offering. But what about Republic Wireless or Ting?

If those names don't ring a bell, it's because they're incredibly tiny outfits compared with the likes of TracFone and Page Plus Cellular. But that doesn't mean they're any less important. A new breed of MVNOs has been gaining steam and attention in the market recently by offering a range of innovative services the traditional carriers are not--even the prepaid unlimited players.

Will any of these companies change the way the Tier 1 wireless carriers do business? Will they steal away millions of customers? I don't think so, at least not in the near term. Larger carriers have entrenched ways of doing business, ranging from the way they price data to how they handle customer service. Moreover, Republic and Ting both just came into being late last year and are still getting off the ground in many respects. 

These MVNOs may not change the market overnight. But I certainly hope they don't go away. Find out how the MVNO market is changing in this special feature. --Phil