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

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27 Jul 2015

Regional telecoms group Bluesky Pacific has launched a pre-paid MVNO unit in New Zealand, offering services over the Spark (formerly Telecom New Zealand) network. Bluesky customers will have the option to top up their mobile phone online, at a convenience store, or through their local church – a unique distribution option that will provide the participating church with a commission that can be used for community projects. Bluesky Pacific Group CEO and president Aoe’e Adolfo Montenegro, commented: ‘This is an exciting time for Bluesky and it’s about connecting our Pacific people. We are a growing Pacific operator, and we want to be the preferred network for Pacific people globally’. TeleGeography notes that Bluesky is currently active as a mobile network operator (MNO) in American Samoa, Samoa and the Cook Islands.

Time is running out for interested parties to submit their applications for one of Iran’s first MVNO licences. As per the schedule set out by the Communications Regulatory Authority (CRA) in March this year, the deadline was set at 6 August. All applicants need to be registered in Iran as a private company, with at least a 51% Iranian shareholding. The MVNO concessions will be valid for five years apiece, with the potential for five-year extensions, and each domestic MNO is required to sign wholesale agreements with at least two MVNOs. The regulator said concessions would be available for both full MVNOs – resellers which establish their own mobile switching centre (MSC) and visitor location register (VLR) – and light MVNOs (those without their own MSC and VLR). Full MVNOs will be charged a fixed licence fee of IRR50 billion (USD1.69 million), while light MVNOs must pay IRR20 billion. All MVNO licences will initially be made available on a six-month temporary basis, before the arrangements are formalised. Going forward, all successfully approved MVNOS will be obliged to share 5% of their annual profits with the government.

Vodafone UK has denied suggestions that it is set to exit the domestic MVNO wholesale sector, following claims by altco TalkTalk that the mobile giant ended their agreement ‘without warning’ in November 2014. In a submission to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA’s) investigation into BT’s GBP12.5 billion (USD19.4 billion) acquisition of EE, TalkTalk said Vodafone had also ended agreements with Sainsbury’s and Carphone Warehouse. The TalkTalk statement, as quoted by Tech Week Europe, read: ‘We now understand that Vodafone is in the process of withdrawing entirely from the MVNO market. A firm with no active MVNO agreements in place … cannot be considered to be a competitor in the wholesale MVNO market’. However, Vodafone hit back by saying: ‘We have no plans to exit the UK MVNO market and we are informing the CMA of the correct position today. Vodafone cannot comment on individual commercial decisions made by its partners but the decision to terminate the TalkTalk MVNO agreement was not made by Vodafone. TalkTalk announced an MVNO deal with O2 and we continue to provide MVNO services to Sainsbury’s and Talk Mobile’.

Yota, the 4G MVNO owned by Russian mobile giant MegaFon, has extended its services to Nizhniy-Novgorod, the fifth largest city in Russia. SIM cards are now being distributed in the city itself, as well as the surrounding towns of Arzamas, Dzerzhinsk, Bor, Bogorodsk, Zavolzhye. According to the Prime Business News Agency, Yota aims to secure 15% of the regional market within three years.

Mobile virtual network enabler (MVNE) Effortel has been enlisted by Kenyan MVNO Equitel to manage all technical and administrative aspects of the virtual operator’s MVNO partnership with Kenya’s most popular retail bank, Equity Bank, as part of a project that they say will ‘bring a more mobile and truly integrated banking experience to East Africa’. Equitel’s MVNO has gained significant traction in the mobile money space, to date 450,000 users have signed up for the service, activated on Effortel’s platform. Arkadi Panitch, founder and CEO of Effortel, commented: ‘Mobile money services are a clear success story in the African region. Mobile money transfer services have thrived over the last few years and now banks in Africa are developing their own branded services. Equity Bank has a lot of experience in the mobile banking space, but by partnering with Equitel it has a much stronger mobile banking proposition. We worked closely with Equitel to develop a fully secure and integrated mobile service’.

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