Content-centric MVNOs still hopeful

Oct 16 2006 - 12:35 AM ET | MVNO

Several high-profile mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) have launched over the past year, including now-defunct Mobile ESPN. While investors came up with lofty subscriber figures, the operators are discovering that it's much harder than first thought to attract a large audience.

Amp'd Mobile has been funded with hundreds of millions of dollars and has partnerships with major media outlets (like MTV) and retailers (like BestBuy) but has attracted well fewer than 100,000 subscribers in about a year.

The AP notes that while the MVNO gold rush may be fading, the current crop of players aren't all planning on throwing in the towel.

Despite the loss of ESPN, which runs over the Sprint network, "We are still very supportive of the MVNO program. I want to make that very clear," said Thad Langford, Sprint's vice president for strategic partners.

Langford said Sprint estimates it takes "roughly four to six quarters" to build a successful virtual provider of "post-paid" service — a more lucrative business where customers pay monthly charges rather than prepaying for air time to use at their own pace. ESPN is ditching its venture after less than a year.