Disney postpones MVNO plans

14 Aug 2006

The Walt Disney Group has postponed the launch of its UK mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) citing increasing competition in the sector, according to The Sunday Telegraph. In April 2006 Disney signed an agreement with mobile network operator O2 UK to offer MVNO services under the banner Disney Mobile; it already offers MVNO services in the US. The company was to utilise the O2 network on a wholesale basis and be responsible for all aspects of the service, including product development, distribution, marketing, customer relations, billing and other business operations. It had originally planned to rollout services by the end of 2006, but has now delayed the launch indefinitely. ‘Distribution outlets have been consolidating and there is now increased competition,’ Disney said in a statement. ‘However, we will keep one eye on the landscape.’

Following the success of Virgin Mobile, the UK’s leading MVNO with more than four million users, numerous companies have publicly declared plans to roll out virtual services in the UK, with mixed success. Mobile software supplier ROK (ROKmobile), sports media group Extreme (ExtremMob) and food retailer ASDA all missed self-imposed 2005 launch deadlines. Stelios Haji-Ioannou, the founder of easyJet and EasyGroup, launched a low-cost, SIM-only MVNO under the brand name easyMobile in conjunction with T-Mobile UK and Danish incumbent TDC in March 2005. Based around a simple tariff structure and solely online sales, the introduction of easyMobile prompted a sweeping round of price cuts by the established MVNOs, though the venture has yet to make an impact in terms of market share, having signed up just 15,000 users in its first six months of operation. EasyGroup’s airline rival Ryanair also seems to have abandoned its plans for MVNO services. After dipping its toe into the fixed line CPS market in its native Ireland, Ryanair soon decided to stick to what it does best: air travel. Ryanair Telecom operated under licence from Ryanair plc, but neither the airline nor its directors had shares in the telecoms company and the operator was owned by Bumblebee Communications, which went bust in May 2005, less than a year after launch.

United Kingdom, O2 UK