Lycamobile aims to kill T-Mobile’s proposed acquisitions


Lycamobile, a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) has publicly criticized T-Mobile.

Lycamobile is a London-based MVNO offering services in more than a dozen countries and serving over 16 million subscribers. Its US subsidiary offers mobile service over T-Mobile’s network. However, Lyca is now making its fight against T-Mobile very public.

Having entered the US market through an MVNO deal with T-Mobile in 2012, Lyca is now claiming that T-Mobile has failed to fairly abide by the terms of the agreement. In a filing with the FCC, Lyca wrote that it has “struggled over the past several years to obtain basic functionalities from T-Mobile, such as eSIM and access to T-Mobile’s 5G standalone architecture, and to get T-Mobile to fairly observe the terms of its MVNO agreement”.

In the filing, Lycamobile urged the FCC and the Department of Justice to block T-Mobile’s prospective acquisitions of Mint Mobile and Ultra Mobile.

In fact, Lyca suggests that “T-Mobile has been advantaging Ultra and Mint because of their intended acquisition of the companies while systematically disadvantaging Lyca, a close independent competitor”. Lyca wrote that if T-Mobile is allowed to acquire Mint and Ultra, “this anti-competitive behavior will only worsen” in an effort to eliminate competition for in-house MVNOs.

T-Mobile is fighting back, filing a motion to dismiss Lyca’s comments, arguing that Lyca’s complaints come nine months after the FCC’s comment deadline and are, therefore, irrelevant. According to T-Mobile, Lyca is seeking to insert an irrelevant private dispute into the FCC’s public interest review.

This is the latest battle in an ongoing war between Lyca and T-Mobile. In 2022, T-Mobile filed a lawsuit against Lyca, claiming that it accidentally undercharged the MVNO for access to its network for over a year. The billing discrepancy is reportedly due to problems with a third-party billing provider.

The lawsuit states that Lyca should have caught this mistake. However, Lyca claims that it renegotiated its MVNO agreement with T-Mobile in April 2022, based on T-Mobile’s data, which turned out to be faulty. The MVNO then concluded that its payments to T-Mobile would not increase while it added more customers.

Lyca “relied on the false information from T-Mobile to lower its prices to customers and expand its operations to grow its customers”, according to Lyca’s counterclaims. The subsequent scaling back of Lyca’s growth plans and changes to its customer plans has “substantially injured Lycamobile”, the company claims.

The counterclaims submitted by Lyca call the lawsuit a “smokescreen” hiding T-Mobile’s desire to hinder Lyca’s ability to compete with T-Mobile and, potentially, to force Lycamobile out of the US market. This reflects its claims now that T-Mobile is engaging in “anti-competitive” behavior.

T-Mobile had hoped to complete its proposed $1.35 billion acquisition of Mint Mobile in the first quarter of 2024. However, the deal has now been delayed twice as the FCC continues to evaluate the potential deal.

It remains to be seen whether Lyca’s recent complaints of anti-competitive actions will sway regulators to block the deal. Meanwhile, the stage is set for a further battle – the court case between Lycamobile and T-Mobile is set to go to trial in 2025.

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