Cheaper wholesale prices drive a thriving MVNO market

The MVNO market has grown at an impressive clip during the past several years as customers seek alternatives to tier-one carriers and as costs of operating a virtual network have declined. Citing Strategy Analytics data, Bloomberg reports that U.S. MVNOs have roughly doubled their subscriber numbers since 2009, while the four major network operators have seen subscriptions grow by only 28 percent.

Wholesale rates for mobile networks have plummeted by nearly two-thirds over the past five years, according to the piece, and they're expected to continue to fall.

Indeed, Bloomberg reported that Consumer Cellular's revenue rose 30 percent last year to $620 million, while Ultra Mobile's revenue grew from $1 million in 2012 to almost $200 million last year. (Though, at the same time, some MVNOs like PTel and Solavei are dropping out of the market.)

So MVNOs can increasingly differentiate themselves from the major players on price as well as customized services. That's a huge difference from a decade ago, when big companies such as Disney and ESPN thought that taking their content mobile via the MVNO model was a terrific idea. Article