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

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5 Oct 2015

UK-based MVNO giant Lycamobile is poised to launch its service in Tunisia, the 20th country in its international network. The company notes that the worldwide Tunisian diaspora is estimated at around 1.2 million people, including more than 660,000 Tunisians in France, 189,000 in Italy and 86,000 in Germany. As such, Lycamobile notes that the new proposition will particularly appeal to Tunisians looking to call friends and family abroad. Lycamobile chairman Subaskaran Allirajah commented: ‘Tunisia is one of the best-developed countries in Africa from a telecoms perspective, and it has a large diaspora concentrated in Europe. Those factors make it a natural market for us to open as we continue our international expansion, following on from our launches in Romania and Hong Kong earlier in 2015’.

M:tel Austria, a subsidiary of Telekom Srpske of Bosnia & Herzegovina, has launched a virtual operator service over the A1 Telekom Austria network. As a full MVNO, M:tel Austria claims that it will have a comprehensive network of core elements in place and will rent the necessary transmitting stations from A1 in order to be able to start business. The new entrant promises to offer users inexpensive calls to Serbia, Bosnia & Herzegovina and Montenegro, offering its services on a pre-paid basis at launch, with post-paid tariffs set to be introduced before year-end. According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, Telekom Srpske is itself a subsidiary of Serbia-based Telekom Srbija and has an M:Tel-branded sister company in Montenegro.

Virgin Media Ireland, the cableco formerly known as UPC, launched its new Virgin Mobile Ireland MVNO today (Monday 5 October), offering unlimited data, voice and texts for EUR25.0 (USD27.9) a month. The new service is offered over the network of Hutchison Whampoa-backed Three. CEO Magnus Ternsjo told Silicon Republic that the newcomer will initially offer 3G data services, before switching to 4G in the first half of 2016. New numbers will be facilitated with the 089 prefix and the MVNO service will be made available to existing UPC/Virgin subscribers for free for an introductory period of three months.

Spanish virtual operator Grupo MasMovil has announced the acquisition of a 50.01% stake in YouMobile, a reseller aimed at the Chinese community in Spain. Going forward, MasMovil hopes to acquire 100% of its new subsidiary within five years. At the time of the transaction YouMobile claimed an active user base of 57,000.

Lycamobile UK has renewed its wholesale partnership agreement with O2 UK, inking a new multi-year deal. Lycamobile has partnered with O2 for the last six years but only launched as an MVNO on the network last year. Prior to this, Lycamobile operated a mobile virtual network aggregator (MVNA) in conjunction with O2, which marked the latter’s first move into the aggregator space. David Plumb, Digital and New Business director at O2 commented: ‘Having partnered with O2 for six years, Lycamobile understands the benefits of a robust network … which is why it has renewed its relationship with us for a second time’. Lycamobile UK initially launched in September 2008 via a wholesale deal with the now-defunct Orange UK.

Mais AD, the MVNO launched by the Brazilian arm of the Assembly of God, is aiming to sign up one million customers in its first twelve months of service, general director Raul Aguirre has told local media outlets. The church has around 18 million members. For his part, Aguirre previously headed Virgin Mobile Latin America and worked at Oi, and the company counts Ricardo Knoepfelmacher, the former president of Brasil Telecom, among its investors. Mais AD is using the Telefonica Brasil (Vivo) network.

Spirent Communications has announced that it has won a service contract from Italian MVNO CoopVoce to deliver its Tweakker solution, thus providing over-the-air (OTA) device configuration settings to CoopVoce’s growing ‘bring your own device’ (BYOD) user base. Spirent Communications is a new venture from Italian retail chain COOP, which has more than 1,000 hypermarkets and supermarkets across the country. Last year, CoopVoce claimed to have sold over 500,000 pre-paid SIM cards to BYOD customers.

Tele2 Russia plans to launch an MVNO catering for the B2B and B2G segments, reports. The new venture will reportedly use the 450MHz band which was previously used by CDMA operator SkyLink, which has been controlled by Tele2 Russia since its merger with the assorted mobile assets belonging to Rostelecom. The launch of the new virtual operator model will be carried out in conjunction with a company called MS-Spetstelekoma, and initially serve the cities of Moscow and St Petersburg.

Finally, as part of a wider AUD1 billion (USD704 million) agreement relating to dark fibre access, Vodafone Hutchison Australia and TPG Telecom have announced the migration of TPG’s MVNO customer base to the Vodafone network. TPG CEO David Teoh commented: ‘One of the biggest benefits for all existing TPG mobile customers is access to 4G on Vodafone’s network, meaning they will be able to experience substantially faster data speeds’. It is believed that TPG previously relied on a wholesale agreement with Optus.

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