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

13 Feb 2017

Belgium’s Telenet Group has announced that it has sold its Ortel Mobile MVNO subsidiary to domestic virtual operator Lycamobile Belgium. Telenet claims that the combined entity will account for a subscriber base of approximately one million, making it one of the largest MVNOs in the country. In a parallel development, it has been confirmed that Lycamobile has agreed to end its long-term wholesale deal with Orange Belgium – which has been in place since its launch in April 2007 – and switch to the network of BASE, Telenet’s mobile unit. As per the terms of the deal, Lycamobile will adopt the Full MVNO business model.

Beverly Hills-based US MVNO RingPlus – which launched in June 2015 over the Sprint network – is reportedly mired in a legal battle with its network host in a California court, and looks set to shut down this month. According to a report by US site PhoneDog.com, the dispute centres on a failed plan which would have seen the two companies collaborate to extend the RingPlus business model. TeleGeography notes that RingPlus has gained prominence with its tactic of inserting advertisements into customers’ ring-back tones, meaning that they hear an advertisement instead of a dial-tone when dialling out. Following reports that Sprint has already shut off the MVNO’s application programming interface (API) for adding new customers, fellow Sprint MVNO Ting has signed a ‘tentative agreement’ to migrate RingPlus users to its virtual network. Fierce Wireless quotes Elliott Noss, CEO of Ting parent Tucows as saying: ‘It is simply a marketing agreement, not an acquisition of any assets or resources. They had roughly 80,000 customers, most of whom were on a free plan. We do not know how many real customers this will produce after an inevitable initial exodus, but we know that it will initially inflate gross adds, churn and marketing expenses in the form of credits we’ll be providing.’

Sticking with the US, a new MVNO has launched in the form of North Carolina-based Faith Wireless, which claims that it allows subscribers to donate 10% of their respective mobile bills to the church of their choice. Faith Wireless offers five plans – branded as ‘Helpful’, ‘Devoted’, ‘Righteous’, ‘Virtuous’ and ‘Blessed’ – starting at USD20 a month and rising to USD56 a month. Faith President and co-founder Ian Durant commented: ‘Future sustainability and the ability to expand its missions are real concerns for churches. We’ve seen too many churches fall short of funding important outreach efforts in the communities that they service. Worse, many are closing their doors every year due to lack of funding. That’s why we started Faith Wireless.’ The MVNO is believed to operate over the Sprint network.

Peruvian corporate communications firm Dolphin Telecom is poised to enter the MVNO sector, local media reports have suggested. The company currently offers TETRA-based trunking services in Arequipa, Callao, Chincha, Ica, Lima, Nazca, Pisco and Talara, but has lined up financial backers ahead of a planned MVNO launch. El Comercio claims that Dolphin’s plan has already been approved by the Ministry of Transport and Communications (MTC), although it remains unclear as to which local mobile network operator (MNO) Dolphin intends to use a partner.

International MVNO FreedomPop has signed its first licensing deal with a mobile network operator (MNO) to provide its in-house machine learning software to boost take-up of value added services (VAS) and drive ARPU growth. The newly merged Italian MNO Wind-3 has licensed the proprietary software which FreedomPop uses in its own business to drive customers from its free services to paid-for content. The MVNO, which has operations in the US, UK, Spain and Mexico, says it expects to sign five such licensing deals with network operators this year. FreedomPop claims that around 45% of its users signing up for free services will go on to spend money on additional services.

Finally, Hong Kong-based PCCW Group looks set to enter the UK MVNO space, following its recently agreed disposal of its UK Broadband (Relish) unit. As part of the company’s GBP250 million (USD312 million) sale to Three UK, a deferred GBP50 million will be made available as a credit toward an MVNO agreement on Three’s network. The deal has been perceived as a spectrum play by industry insiders, given UK Broadband’s substantial 3.4GHz spectrum holdings; UK telecoms watchdog Ofcom is poised to auction 150MHz worth of 3.4GHz spectrum in the near future, meaning that Three could potentially avoid an expensive auction process if the deal is green-lit.

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 90 countries and 850 virtual operators. If you would like to find out more, please email sales@telegeography.com

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