Multi-play and SIM Only price plans tempt network switchers to MVNOs

The rise of SIM Only deals and multi-play packages is boosting the popularity of Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs), according to a report from YouGov.

Its latest report found that 12 percent of mobile phone users – around 5.6 million adults – switched mobile operator in the past year.

Two thirds of this figure left one of the ‘big four’ mobile operators, that is EE, O2, Three and Vodafone, but only 45 percent joined another operator – a deficit of 21 percent.

Rise of the MVNO

This means that the remaining 55 percent joined an MVNO like BT Mobile, Virgin Mobile, Sky Mobile or Tesco Mobile. Of the third that left an MVNO, 55 percent joined another MVNO. This represents a net increase of 23 percent.

BT Mobile benefited the most with eight percent, while Plusnet and Sky Mobile each snared six percent of switchers.

Analysts suggest that many users joined the same company that provides their broadband, landline or television service, while others were tempted by value SIM-Only offers. Indeed, mobile users are more likely to keep their handset when leaving a network than ever before.

It is worth noting that it isn’t all bad news for the operators. BT actually owns the EE network that powers its MVNO, while O2 has stakes in Giffgaff and Tesco Mobile. Furthermore, all MVNOS need a host network to operate their services, so there is wholesale revenue to be had.

And there is one exception to the trend. Three actually increased its customer base by five percent, with its deals, which offer inclusive roaming and streaming, seen as good value. Around half of the subscribers who joined Three were previously customers of O2 or EE.

The UK MVNO market is one of the most developed in the UK, with some providers such as Sky and Virgin blurring the lines with ‘deep MVNO’s that have greater control over services, billing and SIM provision.

Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.