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

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2 Mar 2015

Slovenia’s dominant fixed and wireless operator Telekom Slovenije has signed an agreement to acquire the country’s largest mobile virtual network operator (MVNO), Debitel, from existing shareholders ACH, Adria Mobil and Svema Trade. Debitel originally inked a resale agreement with Telekom Slovenije’s cellular arm Mobitel in October 1998. In June 2014 majority shareholder ACH announced that the MVNO was up for sale, with the firm saying that it hoped to raise up to USD13.6 million. According to the regulator, the Agency for Communications Networks & Services (also known as AKOS), Debitel claimed 3.9% of the country’s mobile user total at the end of September 2014, equivalent to around 88,500 customers.

Aspenta, a developer of machine-to-machine (M2M) and Internet of Things (IoT) technology, has announced the strategic acquisition of CallFreedom, an international MVNO based in Poland. The buyout is expected to add three important components to Aspenta’s growth strategy: the addition of a licensed MVNO, the enhancement of the company’s expertise in SIM provision and management for global roaming and M2M devices, and the ability to expand its fleet tracking and logistics management platform. Founded in 2010, CallFreedom has focused on delivering cost-efficient mobile roaming services to businesses and consumers. The company operates under a full MVNO licence in Poland, and claims partnership agreements with 560 mobile operators in 190 countries worldwide.

Phone Co-op, a UK MVNO that piggybacks on EE’s network, has confirmed that its mobile customer base stood at a modest 11,650 at 31 December 2014, despite mobile sales increasing around 31% year-on-year. According to Mobile Today, the MVNO’s pre-paid service is marketed through supermarket retailer the Co-operative Group’s 3,800 Co-op stores, with SIM cards also sold in independent co-operative societies across the UK. The company, which claims to be the UK’s only telecoms provider to be wholly owned by its customers, was founded as Social Economy Telecommunications Co-operative (SETCO) back in 1998; it currently claims 30,678 fixed and broadband users.

French corporate telco Legos has announced a new MVNO running on Orange’s network. Legos, which offers WiMAX, fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) and ADSL services, and also provides SIP trunking to global integrators and other operators overseas, has confirmed that it will be using Orange International Carriers for SS7 data and voice roaming in other countries via Orange’s existing partners.

Unified Signal, a US-based billing and back office platform, has announced that it has launched a new youth-orientated MVNO, known as TEQfon through its joint venture with the TEQops Corporation. Unified Signal’s ‘Buyonics’ mobile wallet platform has been under development for the last seven years and has been deployed in the US for the last two. TEQops’ CEO, Jeremiah Cox, commented: ‘We have been in the MVNO industry for quite some time, primarily in the M2M space. After an extensive amount of market research, development and building of strategic relationships, we have determined that the youth market segment is significantly underserved and under penetrated.’

Finally, Mexico’s dominant mobile operator, America Movil (AM)-backed Telcel, has unveiled a new budget-priced sub-brand which has been conceived to compete in the traditional MVNO space. Known as ‘Alo’ the new unit allows users to top up in increments of MXN10 (USD0.67) to MXN50, whereas Telcel itself offers top-ups worth between MXN100 and MXN500 via its popular Amigo pre-paid brand.

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