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Lycamobile vs T-Mobile: Unpacking Their Contentious MVNO Dispute

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Lycamobile, a London-origin MVNO furnishing services in multiple countries, including the US which offers mobile services over T-Mobile’s network, is publicly standing against the latter. From their inception in the US market in 2012, Lycamobile has entered into an MVNO agreement with T-Mobile, but accuses the latter of not observing the condition of this agreement.

In a recent submission to the FCC, Lycamobile stated that they have faced significant difficulties over the past years in obtaining basic services from T-Mobile, such as eSIM and access to T-Mobile’s 5G standalone architecture. They marked T-Mobile’s lack of adherence to the established MVNO agreement as a major issue.

The conflict escalates with Lycamobile now requesting the FCC and the Department of Justice to prevent T-Mobile’s impending acquisitions of Mint Mobile and Ultra Mobile. They argue that T-Mobile has prioritized Ultra and Mint due to intention of acquisition, thereby marginalizing Lycamobile, a competing independent entity. Furthermore, they argue that if T-Mobile succeeds in the acquisition, the negative impact on competition will only heighten.

However, T-Mobile is fighting back, seeking to dismiss Lycamobile’s claims on the premise that they came in nine months after FCC’s comment deadline, labelling them irrelevant. T-Mobile claims that Lycamobile is attempting to side-track a private issue into the FCC’s public interest review.

Earlier in 2022, T-Mobile had taken legal action against Lycamobile, alleging undercharging by the latter for over a year due to issues with a third-party billing provider. While T-Mobile insists that Lycamobile should have noticed these errors, the latter argues that the renegotiation of its MVNO agreement with T-Mobile was based on faulty data from T-Mobile.

Lycamobile further alleges that these data issues have had negatively impacted its growth plans and customer offering strategy. They accuse T-Mobile’s litigation as a “smokescreen” to hide their intent to obstruct Lycamobile’s competitive position, potentially even forcing them out of the US market.

With Lycamobile’s cries of anti-competitive behaviour, it remains to be seen how regulators will respond to this series of complaints, whether this will impact T-Mobile’s proposed $1.35 billion acquisition of Mint Mobile, already delayed twice. What we can expect, however, is further clashes as the court case between Lycamobile and T-Mobile is set to go to trial in 2025.

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