Mobi signs MVNO agreement with T-Mobile

The Hawaiian wireless carrier Mobi has signed a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) agreement with T-Mobile. The multi-year relationship will enable Mobi customers to tap into the power of the nationwide T-Mobile network throughout the Hawaiian islands and across the mainland United States.

Mobi was founded in 2005 and, although it doesn’t officially publish its subscriber numbers, the number most recently reported was about 55,000 subs.

Speaking on the sidelines of the CCA Mobile Carriers show today in Pittsburgh, Mobi CEO Justen Burdette said the genesis of the partnership with T-Mobile dates back to Mobi’s prior relationship with Sprint, which it originally partnered with for roaming.

Mobi also has had a roaming partnership with Verizon for a number of years, but the new agreement will make T-Mobile its primary roaming partner.

Burdette said the agreement with T-Mobile allows Mobi “to achieve better economies of scale” especially when subscribers move to the mainland or when they have family members who move to the mainland. They can keep their Mobi numbers, allowing Mobi to retain subscribers.

Mobi’s network has been running on PCS spectrum in Hawaii, along with some CBRS spectrum that was added more recently. But now it’s MVNO service will ride on T-Mobile’s network.

Other Mobi partners

Mobi has been working with some other interesting partners for its mobile service, including Working Group Two (WG2), Amazon Web Services (AWS), TNS and Federated Wireless.

WG2, which spun out of the Norwegian telecom operator Telenor in 2017, is supplying Mobi with its cloud-native mobile core, supported by AWS. Burdette said Mobi began piloting the WG2 core network in January. WG2’s core lives entirely in AWS.

For its roaming hub, Mobi went with TNS because that’s the company T-Mobile uses.

And it’s also working with Federated Wireless to potentially use Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) spectrum for fixed wireless access (FWA) on the islands.

Burdette said the Hawaiian islands are mostly rural, and there are a lot of small communities and other areas that don’t have high-speed broadband.

He said Mobi has some CBRS PALs licenses, but it would also tap General Authorized Access CBRS spectrum. 

He said that Hawaiian Electric won a lot of the PALs in the CBRS auction in 2020. But the electric company mainly uses that spectrum for smart meters, leaving a lot of excess capacity available.