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

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21 Sep 2015

Kenyan MVNO Equitel, which is backed by local financial institution Equity Bank, has now issued a total of 1.2 million SIM cards to customers, Equity Bank CEO James Mwangi told the Daily Nation. According to Dr Mwangi the total value of mobile money transactions by Equitel customers to date reached KES7 billion (USD66.5 million) in August, while loans borrowed from Equitel have topped KES4 billion. The bank’s CEO told the paper that an average client carries out more than 120 transactions per month, including the payment of utility bills, payment for transport services and cross-mobile money transfers. TeleGeography notes that the 1.2 million figure represents strong growth; the Communications Authority (CA) of Kenya attributed 665,661 active users to Equitel as of 31 March 2015.

Luxembourg-based MVNO Join Experience has teamed up with Taiwanese value added services (VAS) provider Taisys to launch the pan-European ‘39 Countries Pre-paid Plan’, which offers connectivity for travellers starting at EUR15 (USD16.9). The plan uses the ‘slimduet’ application, which permits the download of local numbers from various countries onto one SIM card, without the need for to swap the SIM card itself. The slimduet card itself is an ultra-thin add-on that can be placed on top of a regular, micro or nano SIM card.

Italian telecoms regulator Autorita per le Garanzie nelle Comunicazioni (Agcom) has announced that four of the country’s dominant ‘full’ MVNOs must apply the same mobile termination rate (MTR) as network operators TIM, Vodafone, Wind and 3 Italia. The watchdog has completed an analysis of the market for voice call termination on individual mobile networks, and now says that resellers Poste Mobile, BT Italia, Lycamobile and Noverca should be subject to an MTR of EUR0.0098 (USD0.0128) per minute, covering the period 2014-2017. While not owning any wireless spectrum, the four full MVNOs do provide voice termination to other operators using their own infrastructure.

Telekom Slovenije has received clearance from the Slovenian Competition Protection Agency (SCPA) to proceed with its acquisition of the country’s largest MVNO, Debitel Telekomunikacije, from existing shareholders ACH, Adria Mobil and Svema Trade. The agreement was first announced in March this year.

Finally, both BT Group and UK mobile giant EE have contested the notion that their planned merger would adversely affect competition, and argue that the move is anticipated to result in scant impact on the MVNO sector – a position that is supported by documents released by the industry Competition and Markets Authority (CMA). EE has consistently pointed to the fact that it currently supports more than 30 MVNOs on its network, while BT has stated repeatedly that its wholesale broadband service continues to work well. A BT spokesperson told Mobile Today: ‘BT and EE have track records of being willing and enthusiastic wholesalers, and we intend that to remain the case.’ Other summaries released by the CMA show that both Telefonica and Hutchison view the potential deal as being positive for market competition.

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