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Can MVNOs survive over the long term in the cellular M2M market? With mobile operators directly entering the market – with M2M business units, service delivery platforms, and development centers – MVNOs would seem to be in a precarious position. And looking at the history of MVNOs in traditional voice/data services certainly does not inspire confidence (remember Disney Mobile?).

Nevertheless, MVNOs are developing several strategies in an attempt to differentiate themselves from their mobile operator competitors. For example, KORE Telematics recently announced the acquisition of Mach Communications, an Australia-based M2M MVNO, as part of an overall effort to expand its geographic footprint.

Certainly, the KORE/Mach news is not an isolated example of an MVNO attempting to increase its reach and area of service, though it is a rare case of the actual consolidation of two players. Other instances of a growing global presence include Numerex (which rejects the “MVNO” label) opening an office in London to establish a European HQ, and ASPIDER Solutions and Wireless Logic growing in Europe. And some MVNOs have made international expansion a key aspect of their value proposition from the beginning, such as Wyless PLC’s “global SIM”. Indeed, KORE Telematics itself earlier this year announced a partnership with Vodafone to expand its European presence.
However, it is likely that a growing global footprint will prove to be a necessary, but no sufficient, factor to MVNOs’ survival in the cellular M2M market. While not all mobile operators are interested in providing a global M2M footprint, many are. Telenor Connexion just went on a North American roadshow, for instance, to tout its capabilities beyond its core European market. But wide coverage is not the only trick up the sleeves of the MVNOs.