Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Safe European home?

This is the sort of announcement that should worry European mobile players. Earthlink, long expected by many to launch an MVNO in the US, has partnered with SK Telecom of Korea. To date, the European MVNO phenomenon has been a "family affair," limited to European operators causing relatively minor trouble in select markets, and a few local entrepreneurs like Richard Branson and Stelios Haji-Ioannou. I wonder how many investors have factored in MVNO disruption from outside Europe, and particularly from Asia. SKT has a strong balance sheet, as do the Chinese cellcos, and as their own markets get tougher who's to say they will remain content in Asia? There's a sleeping giant out there called UGC (or Liberty Media, if you prefer to think of it that way), with a nascent triple play strategy in its huge cable footprint, but no mobile component. I wonder how long that will last, and if it changes, who the partners will be?

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