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

13 Jul 2015

Singapore-based Liberty Wireless has confirmed plans to launch a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) in its local market, under the ‘Circles Asia’ brand. The new market entrant will piggyback on the network of M1, Singapore’s third largest mobile network operator (MNO) by subscribers. Liberty Wireless director Rameez Ansar told Mobile World Live that its focus will be on the data-savvy, post-paid consumer market, noting that the MVNO has created a virtual model that involves its own cloud-based network core running on top of M1’s towers and its data pipe.

Meanwhile, Israeli telco Pelephone Communications has acquired MVNO YouPhone from Mega Group, Globes reports. YouPhone subscribers will move over to Pelephone without being required to change SIM cards, as the MVNO already piggyback’s on its new owner’s network. YouPhone has an estimated 80,000 subscribers, many of whom are members of the You ‘Buyer’s Club’, and therefore receive discounts in buying gasoline at Alon Israel Oil Company filling stations and discounts in shopping at the Mega Retail supermarket chain. YouPhone’s business model was based on the idea of linking cellular services with other products. The deal is subject to approval by the Ministry of Communications and Israel Antitrust Authority, while the two companies will share revenue over the next three years.

Mexican telecoms regulator Instituto Federal de Telecomunicaciones (Ifetel) has launched a public consultation covering four key aspects of the country’s mobile market, including guidelines for establishing MVNO services. Issues under discussion include interconnection, numbering allocation and non-discriminatory terms and conditions for network access. The watchdog hopes to encourage the presence of MVNOs using a wide range of business models and serving diverse niche markets, thus increasing competition. The public consultation will unfold in two phases, between 10 July and 17 July, and then 3 August-20 August.

Elsewhere in Mexico, Grupo Televisa, which exited the wireless market in January 2015 with the sale of its 50% stake in MNO Iusacell to co-owner Grupo Salinas for USD717 million, has disclosed plans to re-enter the Mexican mobile market as an MVNO. According to El Economista, executive vice president Alfonso de Angoitia confirmed the plans during a conference with market analysts, although no concrete details on the launch have been disclosed. Grupo Televisa currently offers pay-TV and broadband services via five cablecos and also holds a controlling stake in satellite TV giant Sky Mexico.

Czech MVNO Tesco Mobile, which piggybacks on the O2 Czech Republic network, has reached 300,000 users, according to MobileNet.cz, citing an interview with marketing manager Lada Frank. The MVNO launched in May 2013, and currently stands as the country’s second largest virtual operator by subscribers behind BLESKmobil. With reference to the overcrowded nature of the Czech MVNO market, Ms Frank commented: ‘The situation began to self-regulate, because the aggressive pricing policy used by smaller MVNOs proved unsustainable, and many of them disappeared’.

Finally, US MVNO ROK Mobile added a third wholesale partner, which Fierce Wireless believes is Verizon Wireless. In an interview with Fierce, Clinton Ehrlich, ROK’s vice president of marketing, noted that the virtual operator plans to expand to as many as 10,000 retail locations by the end of 2015, through partnerships with independent dealers. In addition, ROK will soon be bringing its service, phones and advertising to 35 test stores in Atlanta, Los Angeles, parts of New Jersey and New York City as it seeks to explore its retail options. The unique selling point of ROK Mobile, which already has agreements in place with Sprint Corp and T-Mobile US, is the fact that it has agreements in place with major and independent music labels to offer a music catalogue with more than 20 million tracks.

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