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The Envelope Please! The 2nd Annual Jonny Awards
As 2023 comes to a close, the most important part of my article today is to say THANK YOU to all of Atrium Unlimited’s clients, customers, suppliers, and friends. Atrium Unlimited Consulting would not be here without your tremendous support. From everyone at Atrium, THANK YOU for a Great 2023!
2023 was another incredible year for wireless and mobile accomplishments and as I said last year at this time, “the best is yet to come!”
The wireless industry had another solid growth year in 2023, and I’m happy to announce that the Second Annual Jonny Awards has returned! Named for yours truly, and based on very unscientific research, the Jonny Awards are meant solely to have some fun and are the creation of this author.
AND THE WINNERS ARE:
As was the case last year, the only qualification to be included in these awards was to do something newsworthy in 2023 that affected or will affect, the MVNO landscape. So, with that, here we go again. And remember, if you feel you were slighted, work harder in 2024, call me for advice and recognize that all awards are given with our best intentions.
Rookie Of The Year – MobileX
A lot of people doubted that Peter Adderton and his team could pull off using Artificial Intelligence to help right-size your wireless data bill. Not only did MobileX have a successful 2023 launch, but they also secured space in over 1000 Walmart stores within six months of getting started. Peter still cracks his whip at DISH every chance he gets but he also finds time to evangelize savings to all data users. The 30 second elevator pitch that he told me –“why would you pay your electric company for 60 kilowatts a month when you’re only using 30?” resonates now more than ever. Don’t bet against MobileX in 2024 and beyond!
Most Valuable Player Of The Year – Consumer Cellular
After getting sold for $2.3 BILLION in 2020, Consumer Cellular only got better with new rate plans, more data packages for their “older” audience, and hiring Ted Danson as their national spokesperson. Consumer Cellular started in 1995 as a company that offered competitive rate plans to those over 55 years of age and that didn’t need big buckets of data. Twenty-seven (27) years later, those customers are now in their 80’s and hopefully using more data. Consumer Cellular is attracting a new generation of subscribers, and even opening up retail stores in places like The Villages in Florida. Ed Evans and his team at GTCR, the private equity firm that bought Consumer Cellular, saw a good thing and are making it great!
Best Carrier Partner For MVNOs
You would think that DISH had the perfect opportunity to run away with this award in 2023 but with the continued exodus of Boost Mobile customers and many senior level Boost/DISH executives, plus a shaky launch of Boost Infinite, they squandered a chance to make a major impact on the MVNO landscape. Without a doubt, T-Mobile stepped up and continued to lead the carriers in being the best provider to the MVNOs. In addition to naming their fourth aggregator, MVNO-Connect, T-Mobile continued to attract more companies to direct relationships and continued their growth despite losing a lot of their Tracfone customers to new parent Verizon (see below). Congratulations to Dan Thygesen and his wholesale team for leading the way amongst all of the national carriers.
Biggest Faux Pas of the Year – Verizon
Tough to beat last year’s winner – Wireless Advocates -- that laid off 1800 employees with no notice three weeks before Christmas, but following its acquisition by Verizon, TracFone identified instances in which it may have violated rules for two programs to help lower income Americans get communications services. As reported by many sources, the FCC announced that TracFone Wireless agreed to pay $23.5 million to resolve a FCC investigation into allegations it violated rules for two government programs.
TracFone also reimbursed the Universal Service Fund $22.7 million and repaid $17.9 million in Emergency Broadband Benefit funds, the FCC said.
Verizon bought Tracfone for $6.9 billion so maybe $64 million in fines is a drop in the bucket. I do hope that America Movil reimbursed Verizon, or at least sent a nice Christmas gift!
Best Wireless Association of the Year – NWIDA
We have a repeat winner for this award with The National Wireless Independent Dealer Association continuing to advocate for the “little guy” throughout the year, again with their fight for Right to Repair, setting up a repository for displaced employees and getting the most out of their vendor partners to support the independent dealers with deep discounts on everything needed to run a store. Adam Wolf continues to grow NWIDA and will continue to be the voice for the independent dealer.
Best Dealer and MVNO Trade Show – All Wireless and Prepaid Expo
Our other repeat winner is The All Wireless and Prepaid Expo which set new records with over 4,000 attendees with over 200 booths this past August in Las Vegas. Robin Tobias and her team have made their event the “must-go-to” trade show in the wireless space and it will only continue to get bigger and better.
Best Advertising – Straight Talk Wireless
It’s not often that one thinks of Verizon as a MVNO that dominates advertising, but kudos to the Verizon Value folks for launching a Straight Talk Wireless campaign where this brand is available exclusively at Walmart stores. This is Straight Talk’s first live-action ad campaign in four years and stars comedian Jim Gaffigan. Mr. Gaffigan takes over the in-store microphone (Attention Walmart Shoppers?) and even pushes Walmart +, a service that offers tons of discounts on everything from auto care, travel discounts, SiriusXM, food, etc.
MVNO(s) of the Year – Charter & Comcast
Last year I said when awarding Charter and Xfinity the MVNO of the year award for their Spectrum and Xfinity brands that they would “continue to cement themselves as major players in the MVNO space.” Spectrum and Charter now boast 7.2 million and 6.7 million subscribers respectively. And, out of the five largest wireless players (in order of Q3, 2023 net additions – T-Mobile, Charter, AT&T, Comcast, Verizon), they accounted for over 38% of Q3, 2023 net subscribers. A recent article from Fierce Wireless stated that 90% of Big Cable’s subscribers were coming from AT&T and Verizon’s postpaid business, not a good sign for our incumbents but proving for another year that Big Cable is here to stay, and these two companies deserve our highest honor.
And Looking Forward To 2024
Most Anticipated MVNO 2024 – NY Mobile
New York Mobile (nymobile.com) is primed to burst into the MVNO scene in the first half of 2024 as a unique wireless provider focused on the New York market. It combines the ability for subscribers to license highly sought-after numbers for mobile and VoIP services. NY Mobile’s vision is to connect and empower individuals and businesses and their brands to the communities that they represent. Area code and number exhaustion have now met their match with NY Mobile’s offering. Fugeddaboudit, bring it on NY Mobile!
So, that wraps up 2023. If you care to comment on any of our picks or want to suggest other categories, find me at atriumunlimited.com and fill out our Contact Form. I hope you had as much fun reading this as I did putting it together again.
Atrium Unlimited Consulting looks forward to serving the MVNO and Wireless business in 2024. Our big announcement is that we will be starting a podcast in January 2024. Our thirty minute twice a month (to start) broadcasts will feature leaders from our industry speaking frankly about current events and insights and analysis affecting the wireless business. Look for The Boon of Wireless streaming on various platforms and hosted by yours truly. I hope you will find it both educational and entertaining!
Again, here’s wishing everyone a very Safe, Happy, and Healthy Holiday Season. Hope to see a lot of you at CES in Las Vegas and I look forward to supporting our industry in 2024!
Cheers and Good Selling!