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Microsoft Pri0

Welcome to Microsoft Pri0: That's Microspeak for top priority, and that's the news and observations you'll find here from Seattle Times technology reporter Matt Day.

April 11, 2007 at 1:51 PM

MVNOs revisited a year later

At last year’s CTIA, the wireless industry’s big trade show, wireless operators called MVNOs (for mobile virtual network operator) were all the rage.

Disney Mobile stole the show with its launch. There was also a lot of buzz circulating around Mobile ESPN, which was catering to a sports crowd, as well as Amp’d Mobile, which focuses on music and sports to attract a younger audience, and Helio Mobile, which promotes social networking among its younger users.

A year later, let’s take a look at what’s going on with these operators, which buy minutes wholesale from the big guys and offer a newly branded service:

— ESPN closed down its mobile service.

Disney Mobile barely got noticed at this year’s the show, in Orlando, Fla., but did put out a press release. Its service, which focuses on family plans and features aimed at parents and children, said a new Samsung phone will allow parents to control who their children communicate with and when they can call, a feature currently accessible only to subscribers online.

Helio announced a new phone, which drew a lot of attention for its “dual-slider” design. When horizontal, a full Qwerty keyboard comes out from the bottom. When vertical, a traditional phone keypad slides from the bottom. RealNetwork, via its WiderThan division, also said that it will start providing a full-track music download service for Helio. An interesting feature is the “Gift” or “Beg” ability, where people ask others to buy them something or buy something for someone.

Amp’d Mobile announced this week that it added 84,000 new subscribers in the first quarter, and is now approaching 200,000 total. On average, their users spend $100 a month, of which 50 percent comes from data usage. Of that data usage, $30 comes from downloads and content (whereas, a majority of traditional carriers get data revenue from text messaging, Web browsing and emailing).

A Redmond-based company called telSpace, which builds software that allows companies to start a new MVNO, has a few opinions about what will make one operator successful over the other. Paris Holt, founder and chief executive, said it will primarily come down to distribution and which ones can get in front of the customers.

What do you think will make or break these companies?

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