MVNOs view European market as most prosperous for growth periodically invites third parties to share their views on the industry’s most pressing issues. In this article Helen Gaden of the MVNOs events series talks us through some of the finding of a recent survey they conducted into the European MVNO market.

The European MVNO market is the oldest, most established MVNO market in the world, and that brings with it its fair share of challenges. Mobile phone subscriptions are close to saturation point, with an estimated 467m unique mobile subscribers across the continent at the end of 2018, of which 111m are expected to belong to MVNOs (just under quarter of the market share), woes of a crowded market and higher penetration slowing growth have echoed across the continent.

Given the limited opportunities for increasing unique subscriber number, intense competition on price and modest patterns of revenue growth, it may seem counterintuitive that Europe is still viewed as the key region for driving global MVNO growth. And yet, a recent survey carried out by the MVNOs Series would seem to refute any such notion. Indeed, calling upon industry leaders across the globe, the survey asked participants which region they viewed as the most promising for growth. And the result? The majority cited Europe as the one market with the greatest potential: 40% to be exact. This constitutes the highest figure for any region.

Yes, competition in Europe’s mobile industry remains intense. But this is also viewed worldwide as making the region a hotbed of market innovation, a trait that is seen as playing into the hands of virtual operators – specialists in delivering niche, disruptive services in rapid response to shifting market demands.

Take Germany, Europe’s largest domestic MVNO sector and one of the most significant in the world. Their market enjoys a total of 135 active independent and carrier-owned MVNOs, which accounts for 19.5% of German mobile subscriptions. Similarly, in the UK a total of 77 active MVNOs enjoy a 16% share of the country’s mobile market. Germany and the UK are joined by France, Spain, Denmark and the Netherlands in accounting for the majority of the MVNOs operating within the European Union.

Some of the biggest virtual operators command market shares which compare favourably with the entire MVNO sectors of other countries, with Tesco securing 6% of the market, Virgin Mobile 4% and Sky Mobile, Talk Talk and iD Mobile each with 1% respectively.

Outside the EU, by some distance the most developed virtual network market is found in Russia. Russian MVNOs currently have a 5% market share with 37 active players, although this number is increasing faster than anywhere across Europe. A main factor in the rapid rise in the number of Russian MVNOs is the proactive approach taken by carrier Tele2, which in December 2017 launched its own MVNE focused on the Russian market. The company reported that its revenues from MVNO services tripled in 2018, with a total of 1.7 million subscribers signed up to providers using its network. It is forecast that, at present rates of growth, MVNOs could account for up to 15% of Russian mobile subscribers by 2022.

Another factor that allows for promising growth in Europe is the fragmentation of the European mobile market (i.e. a high number of individual domestic markets for the size of population, plus the prevalence of large, diverse urban communities) because it makes it difficult for large carriers to cater to everyone’s needs.

To add to that, the results of the survey revealed that both regulations and emerging technologies are seen as another key growth driver in Europe. New technologies causing seismic shifts in the MVNO space include IoT, eSIM and 5G, the latter of which is one of the hottest topics of conversation across the mobile industry in 2019.


For more in-depth insights, download the full European MVNO Market 2019 Report

Shaping the Asia Pacific MVNO Market 2018

MVNOs Series explores the latest developments in the Asia Paficic MVNO market. With contributions by Gary Bhomer, Tel-Consult, and Renato Reis, Acqua Telecom, this report offers you a snapshot of the market, the impact of regulation and the latest business trends in the region.

Comprising more than 50 nations and territories, two continents and an area equivalent to more than a third of the total landmass of the Earth, the Asia-Pacific APAC) region boasts around 60% of the global population, including three of the five most populous countries.

Given its sheer size, it is no surprise the 2.7bn unique mobile subscribers across the APAC region represent an unrivalled market. But due to the varied demographics of a region characterised by sharp contrasts between urban and rural, wealthy and poor, connected and remote populations, mobile ownership only represents a 67% penetration rate.

This is why, as well as ranking as the world’s largest mobile market, APAC is the grand prize being chased by many Western brands. As domestic markets across the region open up to MVNOs, virtual operators are widely viewed as having most to gain. When asked their opinions on the prospects of regional MVNO markets, participantswere unanimous – APAC is the region where industry insiders expect to see most growth in mobile overall, and it is where they see the best opportunities for MVNOs.

This is backed up by most economic forecasts for the key APAC markets. According to GM Insights, China – the world’s single biggest domestic mobile market – MVNOs are expect to grow year-on-year 16% through to 2024, above the global average of 12%. This figure soars as high as 56% CAGR for MVNOs in emerging Asian markets, where low mobile penetration in less developed economies presents even greater growth opportunities.

In emerging economies like Pakistan and Bangladesh, mobile penetration remains as low as 50%, creating ideal ‘virgin territory’ for MVNOs to move in on. Predictions for explosive MVNO market growth in these economies are largely founded on the rapid roll out of 4G – the GSMA predicts these two countries, alongside India and Indonesia, will be major drivers of 4G connection growth in the coming years.

Relationships between virtual operators and MNOs remain crucial to MVNO prospects in individual domestic markets. In the Middle East, despite some signs that governments in countries like Israel and UAE might be prepared to introduce MVNO licenses, a lack of will on the part of MNOs is preventing virtual markets from emerging. Elsewhere, in countries including Australia, restrictive commercial structures are viewed as holding back innovation amongst MVNOs.

In this report, we provide you with a snapshot of the current state of play in the MVNO market across the APAC region, while also addressing the impact of regulation and market liberalisation, and how relationships with network operators are evolving in different domestic and sub-regional markets.

Download the full report and get a more in-depth analysis of four key markets from across the region and insights from top industry analysts with their ear to the ground – including Renato Reis from Acqua Telecom, Futoshi Sasaki from Internet Initiative Japan, and Gary Bhomer from Tel-Consult.

Interested in the MVNOs market in the APAC region? Then MVNOs Asia is the event for you. Join us at the only dedicated MVNO event for the Asia Pacific region.