It will be interesting to see how the MVNO market turns once Sprint Nextel finally stops adding more of these virtual operators to its lengthly list. COO Len Lauer said earlier this month that Sprint is almost to capacity when it comes to adding more MVNOs. The carrier powers the likes of Virgin Mobile, Disney, ESPN, Movida, Helio (Helio is reselling from both Sprint and Verizon) and major U.S. cable companies, to name a few. Although Sprint has a multi-brand strategy, the company doesn't want to dilute its brand, said Lauer.
Sprint cooling its heels is an interesting development in light of the fact that it was the most aggressive when signing MVNO deals and that it gives its partners a high-speed data EV-DO network play. High-speed data has become the Cadillac of services. Major multimillion-dollar companies like ESPN and Disney want to provide video services and more using a data pipe like EV-DO. The other EV-DO player, Verizon Wireless, which has deals with companies like Amp'd Mobile and Helio, is being quite careful about who it does business with since it's worried about diluting its brand. T-Mobile doesn't even have 3G.
So the dark horse then is Cingular, which isn't very appealing to MVNO candidates wanting to offer high-speed data capabilities because it lacks coverage on the W-CDMA/HSDPA side. The carrier has primarily been making deals with folks like 7-Eleven, which are offering prepaid services. It will be interesting to see how much Cingular embraces MVNOs on the data side when it betters its W-CDMA/HSDPA footprint. The window could be closing for all of those major brands mulling an entry into the MVNO space. - Lynnette