Mobile Network Operator Market, U.S.: 3 Top Carriers Push the Envelope

Posted by Mae Kowalke on Saturday, February 18, 2017 with No comments

Things aren't exactly stagnant in the U.S. mobile network operator (MNO) market. Unlimited data plans? Fiber-fed gigabit mobile service in more metro areas? A drone management platform? All this and more, in the coming paragraphs!

On Verizon's Horizon

Let's start with what arguably was the biggest story in the U.S. cell services market: Verizon announced the return of an "unlimited" LTE data plan for its customers, priced at $80/month per line or $45/month if applied to four or more lines on a plan, reported RCR Wireless News

Of course, the devil is in the details, as it is for the "unlimited" plans offered by each of the major U.S. carriers, noted Gizmodo, concluding that while Verizon's plan is a good deal for customers that use a lot of data, overall Sprint wins out on price for a single line and T-Mobile for multi-line plans. And, of course, "unlimited" isn't really unlimited; the challenge of making enough bandwidth available for everyone demands some limits.   

"Each carrier includes provisions in their contract that gives them the option of slowing down, or “de-prioritizing data” for customers who use a certain amount of data," Gizmodo explained. "There isn’t a guarantee your data is throttled, but the carrier has the right to slow you down once you hit a certain point."

In other news involving Verizon, the carrier's wooing of Charter for a possible merger has hit the brakes, likely because Charter has the upper hand and thinks it can do better, reported Alan Breznick at Light Reading.  

Finally, Verizon expanded its Internet of Things (IoT) portfolio by acquiring drone operations management platform company Skyward, reported Carol Wilson at Light Reading. 

AT&T Invests in Gigabit Service, IoT, Open Source

AT&T has been busy lately. Some highlights:
  • The carrier announced its plan to extend its fiber-fed gigabit service to an additional five metro areas by the end of February, which would bring its total coverage for this service to 51 markets in the U.S.
  • Seeing momentum for LTE-M, AT&T said it will roll out that low power, wide-area network technology nationwide during second quarter 2017, following a successful IoT trial in Northern California.
  • AT&T's ECOMP code is being transitioned into the Linux Foundation for placement into open source. What does this mean for the the industry, and how will service providers benefit? Hopefully it will make virtualization easier and faster to roll out and manage.
  • Relatedly, AT&T plans later this year to release into open source its Incubation & Certification Environment (ICE) software, which could influence telecom industry efforts to adopt a common approach to bringing multiple VNFs into their networks. 
T-Mobile Focuses on LTE

T-Mobile's plans to front-load its capex spending during early 2017, expecting to spend $5.1 this year on LTE deployment. Currently the carrier is deploying LTE on low-band 700MHz spectrum in markets like Chicago, Light Reading reported

Finally, although rumors are swirling about possible mergers & acquisition activity int he U.S. communications market, T-Mobile said the possibility of a move like the carrier merging with Sprint is on hold until after the FCC assigns 600MHz licenses to auction winner, which probably will happen in the next few months, Light Reading reported. After that, some industry consolidation is likely. 

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