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

29 Jun 2015

The UK Post Office has entered the consumer mobile market with its new pay-as-you-go mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) service. Post Office Mobile, which piggybacks on *EE*’s network and uses Transatel as a mobile virtual network enabler (MVNE), intends to leverage the Post Office’s 11,780 branches for distribution purposes. The new MVNO’s strap-line is ‘Pay Less as You Go’, and it hopes to take a share of the ‘eleven million top-up transactions’ that are carried out at Post Office branches by undercutting the main providers by up to 77% through its calls, SMS and data bundles, which start at GBP5 (USD7.9).

Meanwhile, in Slovakia, Postatel, an MVNO joint venture between postal operator Slovenska Posta and the country’s newest mobile operator SWAN, expects to launch in the autumn. The precise timing depends on the availability of national voice/data roaming, which SWAN has so far been unable to agree with the country’s three incumbent cellcos. Since launching in March, SWAN has been restricted to using its own limited infrastructure to provide a data-only service, although a roaming deal may soon be reached with Slovak Telekom. The MVNO aims to capitalise on Slovenska Posta’s extensive retail network.

South Africa’s latest MVNO SmartMobile is expected to launch commercially in late July, using the iSmart brand name. iSmart CEO Andre Geboers confirmed to ITweb.co.za that the first call via SmartMobile was made last week as part of the virtual operator’s ‘soft-launch’ which will see staff members trialling the service. iSmart is part of the Digicall Group, which has operated in South Africa for just over a decade. The iSmart brand is already used to offer related services, including mobile sales to high risk customers, insurance and consumer data. MVN-X is acting as SmartMobile’s mobile virtual network enabler (MVNE).

Kaktus, the T-Mobile Czech Republic sub-brand that launched in October 2013, has announced that its user base has reached 76,000. The operator, which has sought to distinguish itself primarily by providing a customer-focused support set-up via Facebook, notes that a total of 28,806 customer requests have been handled via Facebook to date. Further, Kaktus currently provides free Facebook access for all SIM cards activated after 1 June and using a data bundle.

Movistar Mexico expects to add five new MVNOs to its network by year-end, wholesale director Boris Velandia confirmed at the MVNOs’ Industry Summit LatAm earlier this month. The five as-yet-unspecified virtual operators will join Maxcom, Megacable, Virgin Mobile, Qbocel, Cierto and Maz Tiempo, as well as Movistar’s own sub-brand Tuenti, taking the total number of virtual operators on its network to twelve.

Real-time MVNE DIGITALK has announced that it has signed an agreement with Vodafone UK to host and integrate MVNO brands with its network. As such, Vodafone UK has adopted DIGITALK’s ‘Mobile Cloud’, a fully integrated end-to-end solution which allows MVNOs to quickly and efficiently launch a bespoke range of functions, including CRM and billing, supporting pre-paid and post-paid services. The Mobile Cloud makes it simple for established MVNO brands to migrate their services; the MVNE claims that the platform is equally well suited to market entrants that require the scalability and flexibility to launch a differentiated mobile brand.

Canadian Internet of Things (IoT) firm Sierra Wireless has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire French MVNO MobiquiThings, a company with strong experience in the energy, transportation, security, retail, and healthcare markets. Sierra has hailed the French firm’s unique technology platform, which includes MobiquiSIM, a dynamic attachment service that provides its customers with superior radio access network coverage. The acquired company has around 75 customers and more than 100,000 wireless connectivity subscribers. The transaction is expected to close in August 2015.

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