Vodafone plans US MVNO with T-Mobile
Many of Vodafone’s expansion plans for 2015, including its huge Project Spring infrastructure upgrade, will be funded by the windfall from its sale of its 40% stake in Verizon Wireless. However, it is not making a complete exit from the US market, but plans to launch services there next year, based on an MVNO deal with T-Mobile USA.
The deal will inevitable spark speculation that Vodafone’s end game is to re-enter the US market more wholeheartedly by acquiring TMo, whose main suitor, Softbank, dropped plans for a bid earlier this year, and this week confirmed it had no plans to try again. The Japanese company was apparently deterred by likely antitrust objections to reducing the number of national cellcos in the US (it already controls Sprint and would have merged the two operators together).
TMo, and its major shareholder Deutsche Telekom of Germany, insist that the operator is viable without a buyer. Its LTE roll-out has been accelerating in recent months, and which has been disrupting the larger players with a series of pricing initiatives under its ‘Uncarrier’ slogan. However, the German giant is unlikely to want to stay in the US longterm, and is thought to be willing to sell its stake in TMo if the price is right (under the conditions of the merger of TMo with MetroPCS, DT has to sell all its shares in one go if it exits the firm in the next two years).
Vodafone may now be lined up alongside Dish as a potential bidder in 2015, though there are also persistent rumors that AT&T may make a play for Vodafone. Aside from the twists and turns of carrier M&A, the UK-based giant will at least be able to establish its brand for the first time in the US, in a possible starting point for further expansion in future. The Vodafone Americas unit said services would go live in late fall of 2015 and would initially be heavily enterprise-focused. No brand name or pricing have yet been revealed.
Its first customer targets will be multinational customers – Vodafone says it has over 400 of these which are US-based and a further 500 which are headquartered elsewhere but have “strong US presence”. The operator will now be able to add domestic mobile services and low cost global roaming to the portfolio it already offers these corporations – international fixed, mobile and M2M.
It will also deploy its Vodafone OneNet global converged communications solution across its US base. That solution provides a range of service bundles including cloud services, M2M, telecom expense management, security and access to a global IP-VPN network.
For TMo, the deal will bring additional customers, in an enterprise market where it scarcely competes under its own name (except in its growing M2M business).
Further MVNO deals can be expected, since Vodafone Americas also operates in Canada and much of Latin America.
Former T-Mobile USA CEO Philipp Humm resigned from the firm in June 2012 and joined Vodafone later that year to head up the northern and central European business unit, which was subsequently merged into a single, enlarged Europe division under Humm.