Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Death of the Tech Cell Phone Fetishist MVNO

Silicon Valley Insider has a good piece here about the Virgin takeover of Helio. It is interesting to note that in many ways this marks the death of the second wave of MVNOs (Amp'd, ESPN, Disney, Helio). It will be interesting to see how the market segments over time as the 1st wave players (Virgin, Boost) compete with fast moving low price carriers like Leap and Metro PCS. It seems that some combination of 2 or 3 of those players would make for an interesting opportunity. I think that both Virgin and Boost do a great job of marketing, but the growth that Leap and Metro are having driving low price leadership and all in pricing is certainly attractive to a big segement of the market.

I have posted previously on my thoughts around Helio and I think that the article linked above makes the most compelling point about Helio in my opinion. As I said before, I always expected Helio to be the technology fetishist MVNO with cool devices and advanced technology features. While the phones materialized, and to some extent the services did as well, the focus on marketing to the youth demographic on the one hand, while operating high concept stores on the other hand struck me as misaligned. The bottom line has become that the iPhone has become essentially the technology fetishist MVNO with a very attractive price point and soon a very fast network. I hope Virgin maintains some of the focus on the higher end on the market in a practical way but given overall price competition both from above and below I would expect that best execution is the name of the game for a couple of years ahead.

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