MVNO Monday: a guide to the week’s virtual operator developments

23 May 2016

Post Office Mobile, the MVNO service run by the UK’s Post Office, will shut down this summer – just over a year after it launched. A statement released by the Post Office reads: ‘Since June 2015 Post Office has offered a ‘Pay As You Go’ mobile service online and in 263 of its 11,600 branches, but has now decided to conclude the trial as the results did not give us sufficient confidence that mobile will contribute to our goal of commercial sustainability. The money needed to invest further in the mobile could not be justified at a time that Post Office is investing in modernising our branches.’ The service will be terminated on 8 August, while customers have until 4 August to request a PAC code to enable them to move to another provider.

Serbian telecoms watchdog the Regulatory Agency for Electronic Communications and Postal Services (RATEL) has authorised the introduction of a new MVNO, in the form of UK-owned Mundio Mobile. According to local press reports, permission to launch was granted on Friday 20 May, and the virtual operator is expected to begin offering services in September this year, via the Vip Mobile network. Going forward, reports quote Mundio Mobile executive Channa Kurera as saying that the company is poised to launch in Cyprus, the Czech Republic and Italy before the end of 2016.

Slovenian ICT solutions provider Mega M has unveiled a new data-focused MVNO named Me2. The virtual operator will reportedly go live today (23 May) and use the 065 number prefix. The company is expected to target its 30,000-strong corporate customer base. It is believed that the new MVNO is piggybacking on the Telekom Slovenije network.

MTN South Africa will allow MVNOs to piggyback on its network, becoming only the second mobile provider in South Africa – after Cell C – to offer such a platform. The company’s chief enterprise officer, Alpheus Mangale, told TechCentral that a number of new MVNOs will be launched in the coming weeks, including leading retailers and financial services companies.

Washington-based mobile wallet enabler Unified Signal has announced that it has completed the acquisition of two MVNOs, namely: Puppy Wireless and DataJack. The deals represent the first phase of the company’s MVNO customer acquisition strategy. CEO Paris Holt commented: ‘Both the MVNO and mobile wallet marketplace has really taken off over the last couple of years. Our strategy of supporting internally owned and operated MVNOs was a natural progression. Our strategy is to launch as many MVNOs in the US as possible and help them grow to their fullest potential and then eventually acquire those MVNO customers. This creates a great liquidity event for our clients as well as a great way for Unified Signal to generate additional revenue and profitability. We are hoping to find additional MVNOs in the coming months and add them into the fold. Our goal is to acquire 100,000 customers this year alone which is in addition to growth from our internally owned and operated MVNO called MyTime Wireless which was just recently launched earlier in the year.’

Virgin Mobile France, the MVNO which was launched back in April 2006, is being discontinued, it has been announced. All customers are being migrated onto the ‘Red’ tariff offered by network host SFR, and all phone numbers will remain the same. The MVNO – which was co-founded by the Virgin Group and Carphone Warehouse – has changed hands several times in recent years, and was acquired by Numericable in June 2014, before being swallowed up by Numericable-SFR (now SFR following the two companies’ November 2014 merger.

Soracom, a Tokyo-based MVNO start-up that provides a communication platform for developers of connected devices, has announced that it has raised JPY2.4 billion (USD21.81 million) in Series B funding from World Innovation Lab, Infinity Venture Partners, and other investors. The money will be used to enter the United States and other markets. Soracom launched on 30 September 2015, over the NTT DOCOMO network. Co-founder and CEO Ken Tamagawa told TechCrunch: ‘We’re providing self-service, programmable, pay-as-you-go cellular platform services. It is AWS-like IoT cellular. In that sense, our target customers are broad, including enterprise, SMB and start-ups.’

Correios, the Brazilian postal service, has announced that it has selected EUTV (Surf Telecom) as its network partner, ahead of its planned January 2017 launch. The company, which is better known as a mobile virtual network enabler (MVNE), claims to be in possession of 4G-suitable frequencies covering Sao Paulo, but it remains unclear as to how it intends to offer coverage of the rest of the country. Rival bidder Claro Brasil previously poured scorn on EUTV’s application, to no avail. Correios expects to sign up one million subscribers within its first year of service.

Australia’s Macquarie Telecom has announced that it will become the first business-to-business telecoms provider to offer 4G mobile services across Telstra’s network. The MVNO will upgrade all of its customers who use Telstra’s network – around 70% of its customer base – to 4G services at no extra cost. Businesses will also be given access to a portal allowing them to determine the timing of their migration onto the 4G network. Luke Clifton, group executive of Macquarie Telecom, commented: ‘Not everyone will need or want 4G, but adding to the suite of options is important for us.’

Movistar Mexico plans to start hosting five new MVNOs over its network during the second half of 2016, the company’s deputy director of MVNOs, Mariano Hansen, has informed El Financiero. TeleGeography notes that Movistar has developed into a key player in the Mexican wholesale space, offering capacity to the likes of Virgin Mobile Mexico, QBoCel, Maz Tiempo and weex.

Finally, Tom Rutledge, CEO of US cableco Charter Communications, has said that his company can now potentially offer a nationwide MVNO service because its acquisition of Time Warner Cable (TWC) gives it access to the same Verizon Wireless wholesale agreement as fellow cableco – and wireless market aspirant – Comcast. The agreement in question refers to a 2011 deal in which Verizon purchased AWS-1 spectrum from Bright House Networks, Comcast, Cox and TWC (a group dubbed SpectrumCo) and in return gave those companies access to its wireless network for use in a potential MVNO offering.

We welcome your feedback about *MVNO Monday*. If you have any questions, topic suggestions, or corrections, please email *editors@commsupdate.com*

TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database is now home to the telecoms industry’s fastest-growing collection of MVNO data, covering more than 80 countries and 800 virtual operators. If you would like to find out more, please email *sales@telegeography.com*

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