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

15 Jun 2015

US MVNO FreedomPop, which has signed a wholesale agreement with Three UK, has already received 100,000 pre-registrations ahead of its anticipated August launch. The UK is slated to become the first country in FreedomPop’s proposed European expansion, and the company plans to open a London office with around ten staff in the summer. Founder and CEO Stephen Stokols told Mobile News the aim is to have one million active customers by 2018, commenting: ‘It is all about our trajectory and we’d expect to double up our numbers every few months. Looking at the demand we got from the announcement, it is a stronger demand validation than we had in the US.’

Elsewhere in the UK, Clitheroe-based start-up Anywhere SIM expects to launch its new MVNO service in the next five weeks, tackling the problem of so-called ‘not-spots’ (i.e. areas where people cannot access mobile services) in the country. Founder Matthew Wright told BBC News: ‘[The service will appeal to people] who travel a lot and experience not-spots – for example people that spend a lot of time in caravans and those who pursue outdoor pursuits – cyclers, runners, walkers, anglers, there’s a long list that could benefit outside the big conurbations.’ Anywhere SIM has reportedly managed to set up a multi-operator agreement by pairing with an as-yet unnamed business based outside the UK, which already has roaming agreements with the country’s networks. The UK’s main operators – Vodafone, EE, O2 and Three – have resisted pressure from the government to offer national roaming themselves, favouring bilateral network-sharing agreements instead.

Meanwhile, over in Spain, cooperative Eticom launched a new resale model over the Orange Espana network on 4 June. According to local press reports, would-be members have to invest EUR100 (USD113) in Eticom to become a subscriber, although this can be reclaimed if they leave. Elsewhere, regional altco Euskaltel has agreed terms with Orange Espana for the use of its 4G LTE network on a wholesale basis. Also in Spain, MVNO Pepephone has restarted the migration process between Vodafone network to that of rival mobile operator Movistar, after alleging that the service provided was not the same as that received by Movistar’s own customers. 250,000 of Pepephone’s 480,000 subscribers have already been shifted across to the alternative platform. Finally, Spanish MVNO Tuenti Movil, wholly owned by Telefonica since the end of 2013, has rebranded as .Tuenti. New services include the ‘Try and Buy’ feature, which gives users the chance to try out .Tuenti’s services from any smartphone, computer or tablet before changing operator. .Tuenti’s MVNO has around 250,000 customers in Spain and 150,000 in Latin America, having launched its service in Ecuador earlier this month. Tuenti also has a presence in Mexico, Argentina and Peru.

Suvitech has been appointed as the mobile virtual network enabler (MVNE) for Thailand’s CAT Telecom under a ten-year service contract. CAT will pay a monthly MVNE fee to Suvitech, depending on the number of customers on its network. To date, CAT has agreed 3G wholesale deals with 168 Communications and Data CDMA. According to the Bangkok Post, CAT expects to have more than 200,000 3G subscribers under the MVNO model by October 2016, rising to 1.3 million over the next five years.

Simple, a new MVNO founded by a trio of ex-Movistar Chile executives, expects to stage its commercial launch on 17 June, following successful user trials in March/April this year. 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, via the network belonging to their former employer.

According to Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet, Norway’s National Communications Authority (Nkom) has ordered Telenor Norge to open its networks to TDC-backed cableco Get, paving the way for the company to enter the MVNO sector. TDC Norway already has an agreement that allows it to lease Telenor’s mobile network for use by 1,800 corporate customers, but to date there has been a clause preventing TDC from extending the MVNO service to new customers. In September 2014 Denmark’s TDC Group agreed to pay NOK13.8 billion (USD2.17 billion) for Get.

Lycamobile UK boosted its turnover from GBP142.3 million to GBP201.4 million (USD221.6 million to USD313.6 million) in the year ended in February 2014, chiefly due to changes to its accounting policy. According to a report by the Sunday Times, the MVNO disclosed GBP45 million of accounting ‘adjustments’ going back to 2010, with GBP20 million coming from pre-paid customers who failed to use their mobile credit. The company stated that if a phone number remains unused for a period of time, the users’ credit returns to the company. According to the newspaper, Lycamobile had previously faced warnings this year from Companies House over prolonged delays in filing accounts, with Companies House threatening that the MVNO risked being dissolved.

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