MobileX eyes February 22 launch date

MobileX, the MVNO that’s determined not to operate like an MVNO, is expected to launch in the next couple weeks. Specifically, the plan is to launch February 22, according to MobileX CEO Peter Adderton.

Adderton was one of the founders of Boost Mobile in Australia and remains involved in that business, but he was also part of the team that brought the Boost brand to the U.S. over 20 years ago.

The U.S. Boost business is now in the hands of Dish Network, which is a frequent target of Adderton’s critiques. Part of the reason Adderton is launching MobileX stems from his frustration with the U.S. prepaid/MVNO market since the U.S. government allowed the Sprint/T-Mobile merger to go through.

Getting a launch date

The current launch date for MobileX is notable because MobileX has experienced a series of delays since it was first announced, including some fits and starts in the beta phase. So if the current target date sticks, that itself may be newsworthy.

Peter Adderton
Peter Adderton  (MobileX )

“We’ve taken quite a bit of extra time to get it right,” Adderton told Fierce. “The challenges that we faced were far greater than I thought when it came to doing what we’re trying to do. Anytime you develop a new platform it always takes longer and costs you more. But I didn’t think it would take us this much longer.”

What they’re trying to do is “right size,” so to speak, the way consumers get and pay for their mobile services. Using artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), MobileX tries to answer the question: How much data do I need?

That said, MobileX will offer what he calls the “fake unlimited” plan, which pretty much everyone offers these days.

MobileX calls them fake because they’re not technically “unlimited” due to  things like speed throttling. But they’re simple and MobileX will offer it “for those that want to donate money to us,” he jests. This is where MobileX will match the other “unlimited” plans out there from the likes of Boost Mobile that are in the $25/month range.

Another service option is MobileX users can tell the app how much data they want. But perhaps the most exciting is “live while we learn,” which uses AI and ML to determine how much data the customer needs and bills them accordingly.

Adderton said his own family saved a bundle of money when they jumped from AT&T to the new MobileX system. MobileX uses Verizon’s network.

In fact, while a guest on Recon Analytics’ podcast that aired on Monday, Adderton said the platform brought his family’s monthly bill down from $300-$400 to $80.

How did that go over with his two teenaged daughters? He said it didn’t take long for them to catch on. They see everything in terms of Wi-Fi as opposed to 4G or 5G, and if they want more data, “they can pay for it themselves,” he said, including his 10-year-old daughter in that set-up as well.

Scaling the business

Back to his job as CEO of MobileX, Adderton said the next big question is whether it scales, and they’re going to be careful about how many people are brought onto the network at the early launch stage.

MobileX limited the number of people in the beta and didn’t say how many were involved. The onboarding experience at first needed a lot of work, especially when it came to the eSIM part of it. MobileX will launch with eSIM and a physical SIM, he said.

MobileX ran into some snags in other areas. Its plans to merge with Electro-Sensors, announced last June, was scuttled by January of this year.

Adderton said the plan was to partner with Electro-Sensors not for capital purposes but to have a vehicle to do mergers and acquisitions. However, economic conditions soured and the pipeline dried up, so that’s on hold.

He also shared his take on some trends in wireless, including the number of customers increasingly getting their wireless services at cable company MVNOs. He said the cable companies are using wireless to save their core businesses, and that’s why he doesn’t think they’re going to grow as fast as others think they will in 2023.

“I could be wrong, but they’re going to run out of those old customers who basically just want simplicity in billing and are happy to be ripped off… They eventually will run out of” those customers, and that will end up slowing the wireless net adds in the cable business, he said.  

Because 5G hasn’t delivered on its promises, the industry basically shot itself in the foot because investors aren’t going to spend another round on 6G when 5G didn’t pan out. “I think the carriers ought to get away from the unlimited plans, start charging for speed-based pricing,” he said. “Otherwise, what you’ve done is spend hundreds of billions of dollars on spectrum and network assets and you haven’t justified the ability to charge any more for that service.”

Adderton plans to attend MWC 2023 in Barcelona, which starts later this month, in part to meet with industry folks to talk about global roaming fees, which he wants to eliminate for Mobile X customers. The missive there is to give customers the ability to leave the U.S. and still use their phones as if they never left the country and avoid paying exorbitant roaming fees.