The number of active MVOs in the Netherlands remained stable at 47 at the end of Q1, compared to the end of Q3 2009, the latest report by Telecompaper, Dutch Mobile Virtual Operators Market – Market Overview first quarter 2010, revealed. The players themselves have changed, with some exiting the market, others entering, some still testing and others changing networks or rebranding.

The vast majority of VOs continue to focus on postpaid offers, but more than two thirds of all VO subscribers are still on prepaid plans. The number of VO-enabled customers remained stable at a total of 3.0 million, up only 1.5 percent from Q3 2009. The share of VO subscribers as a percentage of the entire mobile market, increased to 15.3 percent from 14.1 at end Q3 2009, due mainly to a decline of the total active mobile market.

The market is still dominated by five players: Lebara, Lycamobile, Tele2, Ortel and AH Mobiel. Lebara is the only top 5 player not losing customers. In terms of network operators supplying wholesale access for the VOs, KPN continues to lead. Nevertheless, both KPN and T-Mobile lost market share to Vodafone, which increased its market share substantially compared to both the year before and six months before.

The ethnic segment is the largest, most saturated and competitive, with almost 50 percent share of the VO market. Lebara remains the leader here but also in the overall VO market. The second largest segment (18 percent) was the non-niche segment, consisting of operators such as Tele2 and Rabo Mobiel, which continue to lose market share. It is followed by the no-frills segment (such as Simpel and Ben), now more than 12 percent of the total market. The other segments such as business-focused, retail, international, community and charity remain much smaller.

This mobile virtual market segment is expected to remain a highly dynamic market. Regulation of tariffs at national and EU levels is expected to have a negative effect on some VOs, which could lead to more exits. However the market remains an attractive business opportunity and Telecom expects to see more parties entering the market.