Helio’s wholesale MVNO provider, Sprint, yesterday joined the unlimited wireless bandwagon and came out with their own $99.99 plan called “Simply Everything”. Unlike AT&T and Verizon, this plan includes unlimited data, text, Web, email, GPS navigation, and their own brand of mobile music and TV.
Wasn’t that one of Helio’s main points of differentiation, “unlimited” wireless plans? So now that AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile all offer unlimited voice plans, and now Sprint (Helio’s partner/provider) offers unlimited voice and data, where does that leave Helio?
This is one of the problems with the wireless industry and MVNO. The industry has not segmented and is still too vertically integrated. Unlike other industries where there are companies that specialize in retail and other companies that focus on wholesale – in the wireless business it’s the same company. Your wholesale provider is also your retail competitor. That’s too much of a conflict of interest and can never work. If there ever were a break out operator that decided to focus on wholesale, say like how UUNET did with Internet, I think we’d see a tremendous and diverse competitive landscape with lots of wonderful choices for consumers (and that wholesale-focused company would make lots of $$$) – but nobody has the guts to do that and walk away from the vertically integrated model, so we are left with a “false” wholesale MVNO model that can never work. Sprint probably should have done this five years ago and by now they would be cleaning up, instead of reporting a $29 billion fourth-quarter loss.