Spanish MNOs Movistar and Vodafone Spain shed 46,500 and 33,000 mobile customers, respectively, in January, mostly to Jazztel and low-cost MVNOs, according to the monthly survey reported on the website ADSL Zone. Orange Spain, which is in the process of acquiring Jazztel, shed a net total of 16,000 customers in the first month of the year, although its low-cost brand Simyo offset that figure with a net gain of 16,400 customers. Jazztel attracted 37,000 more mobile customers with the success of its fixed-mobile convergent packages. Ono, which was acquired by Vodafone in July, gained 15,000 mobile customers, but Spain’s fourth-largest mobile operator, Yoigo, continued to shed customers, losing some 9,000 ported numbers. Vodafone’s new low-cost MVNO brand, Lowi, also had a positive first month, having attracted around 10,000 customers since its launch on 18 December 2014.
Spain’s mobile market is notorious for its high churn rate, driven in large part by the country’s dire economic straits. While many markets in both the developed and developing worlds have too many MVNOs and are poised for a contraction, in Spain it appears that the MVNO sector is enjoying robust health and posing a growing challenge to the MNOs. In the case of MVNOs wholly owned by MNOs, such as Ono, Simyo and Lowi the former threaten to cannibalize the latter. As Orange prepares to acquire Jazztel, that phenomenon is likely to be repeated. In Spain, low cost and flexibility rule, so MVNOs are carrying the day. For MNOs, the best strategy seems to be not to beat them but to join them.