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

20 Jun 2016

Diario Financiero reports Peru’s industry regulator Supervisory Agency for Private Investment in Telecommunications (Organismo Supervisor de Inversion Privada en Telecommuniciones, Osiptel) as saying that Virgin Mobile Peru will become the first MVNO in the market when it launches in September, ramping up the pressure on the country’s four incumbent mobile network operators (MNOs). Peruvian minister for transport and communications, Jose Gallardo Ku, confirmed the news in a press briefing also attended by Virgin Mobile Peru CEO Steve Logue. The chief executive says the start-up intends to target the youth demographic (18 to 24-year-olds), presenting them with a different option to anything they have so far. Parent company Virgin Mobile Latin America (VMLA) is already present in Chile, Mexico and Colombia, and will use the Movistar network in Peru.

US-based MVNO FreedomPop has ramped up its push in the UK market, with the introduction of an over-the-top (OTT) application which it says is designed to increase the availability of its self-styled ‘Freemium’ service. Compatible with a wide range of devices and operating with any wireless carrier, the OTT app reputedly provides 200 mobile call minutes and 200 SMS per month – for free. Furthermore, RCRWirelessNews notes that the virtual operator is also launching an initiative under which it will sell ‘certified’ pre-owned smartphones in the UK to increase the uptake of such devices, with models starting from USD42.21.

Ireland’s fourth largest mobile services provider by subscribers, Tesco Mobile Ireland, added nearly 50,000 net new users last year to close out December with more than 300,000 customers, according to a recent company filing. The MVNO, a joint venture between the retail giant and local MNO Three Ireland (3), booked full year revenue of EUR57 million (USD64 million) in FY2015, up 39% from EUR41 million the previous year, as sales costs climbed EUR9 million to EUR33 million and operating losses increased to EUR153,000 from EUR112,000. Tesco Mobile Ireland attributed the strong subscriber gains to its competitive price plans, which include Tesco clubcard point bonuses on top-ups. Nonetheless, the virtual operator is struggling to make headway in a competitive segment – a situation mirrored recently by the Irish subsidiary of Lycamobile which, having revealed a loss of EUR6.76 million for last year, said it is proving ‘difficult for any new entrants to achieve any scale’ in the domestic market.

Rumours involving the possible entry of Sky in the UK MVNO market have been circulating since November 2014, but the most recent reports suggest that the operator will now debut its mobile telephony offer by the end of 2016; it will reportedly use O2 UK to host the service. In January 2015 Sky officially laid out its MVNO aspirations for the UK market, with the pay-TV giant saying that under a multi-year agreement O2 UK would provide it with capacity for 2G, 3G and 4G services. At the time Jeremy Darroch, CEO of Sky Group, was quoted as saying: ’Through our partnership with Telefonica UK we will be able to implement our offer in content, innovations and services to inaugurate a series of new activities and take advantage of opportunities to grow in a very dynamic sector.’

Smart World Japan is the name of *PLDT*’s new all-digital virtual operator business in Japan, as a result of a tie-up between the group’s international arm PLDT Global and NTT Communications to launch a service targeting the Filipino community there. Smart World Japan reportedly promises a range of ‘community-centric’ mobile broadband plans with voice calls and SMS. Confirmed last Friday (June 17), PLDT Global president Alejandro Caeg said the all-digital mobile service will be hosted by NTT DOCOMO. ‘We have been studying the market [intensively in an effort to understand] our local market of 240,000 [Japan-based] Filipinos, understanding their needs and wants in the digital space. They are different from Filipinos we find in Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan or Guam,’ the PLDT official said, noting that Filipino ex-pats in Japan are heavy digital content data users.

Tech Portal Singapore reports that Japan-based Internet of Things (IoT) start-up Soracom has received SGD5.7 million in seed money from Pavilion Capital – a private equity fund focusing on investments in North Asia, which is controlled by Singapore investment firm Temasek Holdings – to establish a local subsidiary in Singapore, Soracom Intenational. Launched in 2015, Soracom provides an attractively priced, fully customisable and secure mobile telecommunications service dedicated to IoT. Its products include Air SIM, a SIM card that enables IoT devices to communicate with a web console or API using mobile data. The online portal says that Soracom has signed over 2,000 clients since it launched in Japan, including blue chips, SMEs and start-ups. It is an MVNO using NTT DOCOMO’s network.

Cyta Hellas, the Greek operating unit of Cypriot-based Cyprus Telecommunications Authority (Cyta), has announced a shift in consumer focus, with the launch of its first pre-paid MVNO offer. Until now quad-play operator Cyta Hellas has focused on the post-paid segment, but is now offering customers the opportunity to top up a pre-paid SIM card from as little as EUR5 (USD5.64) from a number of retail outlets across Greece. In addition, Cyta Hellas is offering pre-paid bundles (voice calls, SMS and data) from EUR3, while customers already taking fixed services from the operator can get free calls to Cyta mobile numbers and the option to set up automatic top-ups. Cyta Hellas entered the Greek mobile market in September 2014.

And finally, Germany-based Media-Saturn Holdings, which includes consumer electronics retailer Media Markt and electronics specialist Saturn, has announced plans to launch a new MVNO offer in Austria using capacity on 3 Austria’s network. The retail giant says that it is currently looking to introduce its first Media Markt Mobile and Saturn Mobile branded offers by the end of this month, adding that details on tariff plans and call rates will be published in the coming days. TeleGeography notes that Media Markt already operates an existing MNVO brand in Austria, Ge Org, which is hosted on the A1 network.

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