Lightreading recently reported that US cable network operator Cox has given up its plans for wireless after having bought LTE spectrum for $550 million previously and launching as an MVNO on Sprint's network about a year ago. That was a short and costly trip to wireless land.
It seems that it becomes harder and harder to get established as an additional wireless network operator in the competitive landscape today where your competition already has installed nationwide networks and a solid subscriber base. Other examples I can think of with high plans and quick folds or non-delivery afterwards were a number of companies in Germany who bought WIMAX spectrum a couple of years ago but never made it to a real roll-out. I guess similar things happened in other countries a few years back as well.
A current new startup that I keep watching closely is Free in France, a DSL network operator currently trying to establish itself as the fourth network operator in a not so competitive wireless market. But building a network that customers actually accept or partnering with another incumbent until the network is built out sufficiently are difficult tasks. I wish them all the luck because France could use some wireless competition from the customer's point of view. And after all, every rule needs an exception!
Rather than new network operators appearing on the scene the opposite has been happening in recent years with some incumbents either merging or getting permission to do some form of network sharing beyond just using the same towers. For both regulators and network operators this is a tricky thing to get right because once networks are merged its difficult to impossible to reverse. Also, once networks are merged but companies are still separate, strategies for network evolution are closely linked, perhaps too closely to differentiate or to do what a company really likes to do. Let's hope such moves do not fire back for the regulator, for the companies involved and least of all, for the users. In wireless, four (real networks) seems to be the lucky number, not three, when it comes to a balance of good prices, service and coverage on the one side and making a profit on the other.