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

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13 Apr 2015

The MVNO Aiva Mobile, which operates in both Russia and Tajikistan, has revealed that its Russian user base currently stands at just 35,000 users, blaming the lacklustre take-up on the economic situation in Russia, as well as the reduction in the flow of migrants to the country due to reduced business activity. As a result of the slow rate of growth, the company has suspended its expansion plans, with SIM cards only being made available in Moscow and St Petersburg. Planned commercial launches in the other 13 cities have now been postponed until 2016. Going forward, the company expects to reach its original 100,000 subscriber target by end-2015. The brand, which is aimed at ethnic communities of the former Soviet Union, primarily in Central Asia, is expected to be expanded to Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan in late-2015. Meanwhile, an additional Aiva-branded MVNO is planned for Finland, albeit using a different business model. The MVNO, which is owned by Russian long-distance operator Multiregional Transit Telecom (MTT), launched in July 2014 using Mobile TeleSystems (MTS) as its network host, before going live in Tajikistan in October 2014, using the network of local cellco Babilon-Mobile (Babilon-M).

US MVNO FreedomPop, which piggybacks on the Sprint Corp network, expects to know whether or not it will enter into a strategic deal with another company in the next four to six weeks, according to CEO Stephen Stokols. In an interview with Fierce Wireless, Stokols said that the company has a formal M&A process set up with the Raine Group, the merchant bank that is the US adviser to Sprint parent Softbank Corp, noting: ‘We’re at the point now where we’re further down the process with a party of our choice.’ Meanwhile, with regards to the company’s so-called ‘Freemium’ model, he said: ‘Telcos are looking at it from a defensive perspective. Other guys are looking at it from an offensive perspective, if they want to enter the space. It’s a good validation that we’re in a sweet spot.’

Search engine giant-turned-would-be MVNO Google is in talks with Hutchison Whampoa – the owner of the international Three brand – regarding a deal that will allow Americans to use their mobile phones abroad at no extra cost, the Daily Telegraph reports, citing industry sources. The broadsheet claims that Google plans to create a global network that will cost the same to use for calls, texts and data no matter where a customer is. By linking up with Hutchison, Google stands to gain wholesale access to mobile networks in the UK, Ireland, Italy, Austria, as well as a number of markets across Scandinavia and Asia. As previously reported by TeleGeography’s MVNO Monday, Google has signed wholesale deals with Sprint Corp and T-Mobile US in order to facilitate its US launch. The US MVNO project has been code-named ‘Nova’.

Malaysian MVNO XOX aims to boost its active subscriber base by 300,000 to 800,000 users within the next six months, CEO Ng Kok Heng told the Sun Daily late last month. In the wake of the company’s extraordinary general meeting. Heng commented: ‘With this, we also hope to increase our post-paid subscriber base to 20,000 users within three to six months,’ adding that 99% of the MVNO’s active subscriber base are currently PAYG users. TeleGeography notes that XOX offers 2G and 3G connectivity via a wholesale agreement with Celcom Axiata. The MVNO was issued with 1.5 million numbers with the ‘010’ and ‘011’ prefixes by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) in 2008.

Slovak Post has confirmed a partnership with cellular newcomer SWAN for a planned MVNO service, following the pair’s earlier signing of a memorandum on cooperation, Mobilmania reports. SWAN launched data-only 4G LTE mobile services as the country’s fourth mobile network operator (MNO) on 13 March, initially covering around 50 cities under the banner ‘4G Internet v1.0’ with its own 1800MHz network. On 25 March Slovakia’s Office for Regulation of Electronic Communications & Postal Services directed the incumbent MNOs Orange, O2 and Slovak Telekom to offer SWAN nationwide voice/data roaming – which prompted Slovak Post to go forward with launching an MVNO service over SWAN’s network – reportedly under the working title Postatel, and jointly owned by the post office and the network operator.

Simple, a new MVNO founded by a trio of ex-Movistar Chile executives, has confirmed that it has launched over the network belonging to their former employer. The start-up is managed by Clemente Canales, Alberto Warnken and Oliver Flogel, and will aim to provide end-users with a range of ‘simple’ flat-rate tariffs.

Thailand’s CAT Telecom is in talks with SK Telecom of South Korea and an as yet unnamed Japanese telecoms company with a view to securing a strategic partnership, which is likely to include wholesale MVNO access. Viroj Tocharoenvanith, the company’s senior executive vice-president, told the Bangkok Post that the strategic partner will share the cost of the licence fee and deployment in exchange for access to CAT’s planned 4G network. Partnership talks are expected to conclude in September, while the two-pronged government spectrum auction will take place in November (1800MHz) and December (900MHz) this year.

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