The Emerging Phenomenon of Mobile Virtual Network Operators in the United States
Abstract: In modern mobile telecommunication era, Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNO) are entering market with the aim of providing better services in a highly competitive industry. At global level, MVNOs are rapidly developing in countries where Global System for Mobiles (GSM) market is already active and consumer market host many segments with potential to respond to different types of Value Added Service (VAS). Around 400 measurements were collected over 6 different locations by addressing the following questions:
1. Does the performance vary across the MVNOs running atop the same base carrier?
2. Do MVNOs perform worse compared to the base carrier in each case?
3. Are there differences across different MVNO families?
Based on the survey of Consumer Reports, 80 percent of customers get their service from big four carriers like AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint, but an analysis will show that 81 percent of those subscribers are either from AT&T or Verizon. The big four holds a virtual chokehold on postpaid subscribers. These subscribers carry higher average revenue per unit (ARPUs), lower mix rates and higher growth potential, making them the most valuable subscribers to carriers. The business is gaining prospect as the wholesale rates for network capacity have fallen by 65 percent, market matured and big carriers have fewer routes to market. Hence, carriers have incorporated MVNOs into their multi-channel distribution strategies. We study the performance of 3 key applications: web access, video streaming and voice.
We observe that some MVNOs show significant performance degradation and there are key differences among MVNO families along with analysis revealing a range of structural and lower-layer differences across MVNO families and MVNOs such as use of proxy, varying latencies and loss rates, data activity dormancy issues and various forms of blocking/denials.
Ali Tanveer Khan*
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