I want my MVNO

You probably don’t know what MVNO stands for (Mobile Virtual Network Operator) or what an MVNO does (uses an existing wireless network, jazzes up the service and phone and markets under a different brand) but turns out you just might be a lot more familiar with an MVNO than you realized.

The idea behind the MVNO concept is that an existing brand or even a completely new brand can piggyback off an existing wireless network (think Sprint’s or Verizon Wireless’s) and create a more relevant wireless experience for very specific demographic or cultural segments. Amp’d Mobile and Virgin Mobile USA are music and pop culture-focused services with slick handsets for the rock and rollers. Boost Mobile targets the hip-hop and extreme sports crew. Disney Mobile offers parents the ability to monitor and control their child’s phone use and offers attractive family plan packages. Mobile ESPN caters to the hardcore fantasy sports and stat checking crowd. And there plenty more already out there or on their way.

So to recap, the MVNO gets cheap access to an expensive wireless network while their partner (again, think Sprint, Verizon Wireless, etc.) gets a share of their profits. MVNO life is good, right?

Not exactly. I don’t have a single friend that uses any of these services. I know, I know — I don’t have any friends to start with, but I haven’t even seen a stranger walking down the street using an Amp’d or ESPN phone. Have you?

However, it appears that MVNO’s are finally getting some notice. 40% of people are aware that ESPN offers some type of wireless service. 28% know that Disney offers the same. Awareness of brands without the luxury of a massive Fortune 100 company backing them, such as Helio and Amp’d, lag ESPN; however, it’s still impressive that 1 in 4 people have heard of the Amp’d service.

Now, all they need are some people who will buy them.

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