MVNOs set to have a difficult few months following pandemic

xfinity mobile phone
(Image credit: NYC Russ /

Editor update: Article updated on July 9 to correct list of MVNO providers. Original version incorrectly cited Cricket Wireless as an MVNO.

Mobile virtual network operators owned by cable companies may have continued to see their customer bases rise during the first quarter of 2020, but their impressive growth in the mobile phone deals market could soon begin to decline, research has claimed.

In a new report, data and analytics company GlobalData has warned that that the “ongoing pandemic threatens to slow their trajectory”.

An MVNO is a network operator that uses the wireless infrastructure of a larger firm to provide services to customers.

Initial MVNO growth

GlobalData analysed Altice Mobile (Altice USA), Spectrum Mobile (Charter Communications), and Xfinity Mobile (Comcast) and said they concluded Q1 with 3.75 million subscriptions.

Tammy Parker, Senior Analyst at GlobalData, said: “The Wi-Fi-centric path chosen by these competitors benefited them during stay-at-home orders, as considerable wireless traffic that would usually have traveled over cellular networks was restricted to residential Wi-Fi, thus saving these MVNOs cellular usage fees that they would have had to pay their network partners. "

Over the coming months, Parker believes that the rise of 5G and new spectrum will have “starring roles to play in these players’ future prospects”.

However, while these companies were able to convince customers to leave larger telcos and join their networks, GlobalData warns that the coronavirus pandemic will “dramatically hinder subscriber net adds in the second quarter for all US mobile operators and MVNOs as a continued lockdown keeps many retail shops closed and the economy remains unstable”.

Consequently, GlobalData claims that all three MVNOs are “working to offer more device options to customers while honing their marketing and distribution efforts.” And it predicts that “more price adjustments and promotions from the cable MVNOs are possible over the coming year”.

Parker concluded: “The cable MVNOs are posing competitive challenges to nationwide and regional operators on the net additions front. 

“Amid economic fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic, one thing these Wi-Fi-centric MVNOs have going for them is their particularly attractive service price points, which will especially appeal to consumers who have suddenly found themselves unemployed or otherwise budget-constrained.”

Nicholas Fearn is a freelance technology journalist and copywriter from the Welsh valleys. His work has appeared in publications such as the FT, the Independent, the Daily Telegraph, The Next Web, T3, Android Central, Computer Weekly, and many others. He also happens to be a diehard Mariah Carey fan!