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

12 Oct 2015

Colombia’s Commission for the Regulation of Communications (Comision de Regulacion de Comunicaciones, CRC) has issued a new resolution to facilitate the entry of additional MVNOs into the country’s wireless space. A media release distributed on 6 October claims that the new regulations seek to simplify the MVNO licensing regime and create an ‘attractive’ environment for would-be virtual operators. Going forward, the watchdog hopes to attract niche players such as football clubs, churches and supermarkets, by taking a greater hand in supervising future wholesale agreements and amendments to ensure fair market conditions for incoming players. As of 31 March 2015 (most recent confirmed data), Colombia’s MVNO sector accounted for a total of 2.986 million subscribers, giving it the largest virtual operator market in Latin America by some margin. At that date, Virgin Mobile Colombia dominated the sector with a user base of 2.118 million, up from 856,474 one year earlier.

Millicom Tanzania (Tigo) has entered into partnership with local Wi-Fi firm UhuruOne for a data-only mobile reseller venture. The pair have described the agreement as ‘one of Africa’s first ever data virtual network operators (DVNOs)’. According to AllAfrica, UhuruOne will ‘share both capacity and network resources with Tigo’s 4G LTE data network’ in order to facilitate its launch. TeleGeography notes that Tigo’s LTE network is currently live in Dar es Salaam, Morogoro, Dodoma, Tanga, Arusha, with the cellco planning to extend connectivity to Mwanza, Zanzibar (Stone Town) and Kilimanjaro (Moshi) in due course.

Spanish mobile network operator (MNO) Yoigo has approached regional cable broadband operator Telecable with an offer to become its 4G network provider, according to unnamed sources cited by El Economista. Telecable, which was acquired by UK-based investment vehicle Zegona in July 2015, will see its existing MVNO contract with Vodafone Spain expire at the end of this year. According to the business daily, Yoigo’s move comes after the Comision Nacional de los Mercados y la Competencia (CNMC) ordered Telefonica Espana (Movistar) to cancel a clause requiring Yoigo to seek its permission before offering 4G connectivity to other MVNOs, prompting bad blood between the two cellcos.

Malaysian MVNO red ONE Network has confirmed signing up 700,000 customers to its service, a figure which it expects to increase to one million by year-end. Speaking at the launch of a new retail branch in Bintulu, chief sales officer Ben The told the Borneo Post: ‘We are only three years in Malaysia but we already have 700,000 users, and are looking at achieving one million users by end of the year … We plan to set up 100 shops in Malaysia, and this is our 91st. In a few months we will complete 100 shops’.

Also in Malaysia, MVNO XOX Mobile was slapped with an unusual market activity (UMA) order last week, following a sudden spike in the price and volume of its share activity. According to the Sun Daily, the company was required to disclose any corporate development, rumour or other possible explanation that might have contributed to the surge of its share price and trading volume. XOX shares soared 38.89% to an 18-month high, the newspaper reports. According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, XOX Mobile – which piggybacks on the Celcom Axiata network – claims to be Malaysia’s first publicly listed reseller.

Unconfirmed reports suggest that Artilium subsidiary United Telecom has signed a new MVNO agreement with FMS Contact in Belgium. Under the deal, Artilium will provide mobile services and support for the MVNO’s Firstcontact brand, enabling the virtual operator to develop its existing mobile VoIP business in Belgium and allow users to make inexpensive calls when on the move. In addition, Artilium will provide its turn-key solution that it claims enables MVNOs to run their own brand, thereby saving time and costs.

Spanish online journal El Economista writes that domestic MVNO Pepephone is up for sale with its 50/50 joint owners, JHG Investiments Models (Javier Hidalgo) and Grupo Atento Inversiones (Rosauro Varo), is reportedly happy to accept EUR200 million (USD227.2 million) for the company. Unnamed sources say that Spanish bank BBVA has been commissioned to seek out potential buyers for Pepephone, which they claim would not constitute a regulatory concern given the MVNO’s relatively modest size. It claims to have already received interest from various venture capital firms. The reseller, which recently switched to the Telefonica Espana (Movistar) network, launched in 2007 and has a mobile subscriber base of 485,000 as well as 35,000 ADSL users.

Finally, a new US virtual operator PRIDE Wireless launched on 11 October, claiming to be the first lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (LGBTQ) mobile services provider in the US. Launching on National Coming Out Day, the newcomer founded for LGBTQ people, their friends, family and others who want to a wireless company that advocates for and commits to a ‘giveback’ programme benefiting the LGBTQ community. PRIDE Wireless operates on the same 4G/LTE networks as major providers, and promises strong customer support, competitive pricing, and a unique and flexible family plan, which allows subscribers to create their own ‘family of choice’, providing savings for all types of LGBTQ families.

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