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

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19 Oct 2015

UK supermarket giant Sainsbury’s is to close its MVNO service after two years, the company has confirmed. Mobile by Sainsbury’s, which piggybacks on the Vodafone UK network, will shut down on 15 January 2016, affecting some 150,000 customers. The BBC reports that this modest user base fell short of Vodafone’s expectations and the two parties have been unable to reach an agreement regarding how to develop the service. Going forward, Sainsbury’s has informed the BBC that it still wants to provide a mobile service to shoppers and is exploring its options. The closure marks the second time the company has left the MVNO market; in 2001, it launched Sainsbury’s One, which was promptly discontinued in 2003.

Australian online retailer Kogan is set to re-enter the country’s MVNO market in partnership with Vodafone Australia, two years after exiting the sector. Kogan Mobile accounted for 120,000 customers when it disappeared in August 2013 following the collapse of Telstra wholesaler ISPone. Confirming the development, Vodafone Australia chief executive Inaki Berroeta said the way in which Kogan reacted – refunding all outstanding balances and helping customers move to competing networks – helped persuade him to agree to what both parties call a ‘long-term’ partnership.

South African ISP Afrihost is poised to unveil a new resale service on 10 November, TechCentral reports, citing comments by the company’s CEO, Gian Visser. The website claims that Afrihost, which is 50%-owned by MTN South Africa, will provide users with voice minutes, SMS and data on a pre-paid, month-to-month basis. Visser noted that Afrihost Mobile customers will be able to track usage and purchase minutes and data online, adding: ‘The out-of-bundle shark will be well and truly caged … We will provide both pre-paid data that lasts a year, as well as pre-paid and month-to month-packages. There will be no long-term contracts’.

UK business-focused telecoms firm 24 Seven is planning a major push into the reseller channel with the launch of its national roaming proposition via new MVNO Jump. According to Mobile Today, Jump provides users with a SIM card that switches between the networks of O2 UK, Vodafone UK and EE, depending on which signal is strongest. Describing Jump’s offering as the first UK SIM of its kind, managing director David Samuels told the website that there has been a huge demand for a national roaming service in the B2B space.

Virgin Mobile Polska has notched up an active user base of 260,000, CEO Grazyna Piotrowska-Oliwa has disclosed. The virtual operator, which launched in August 2012 over the P4 (Play) network, has reportedly increased its customer base by around 80,000 since the beginning of the year. Going forward, the MVNO hopes to reach one million users within three years and to break even within two. The critical mass of the MVNO, according to its CEO, is 500,000 active users.

Finally, Peruvian telecoms regulator the Supervisory Agency for Private Investment in Telecommunications (Organismo Supervisor de Inversion Privada en Telecommuniciones, Osiptel) has published a draft document setting out the new access conditions that will apply to the country’s MVNOs and mobile network operators from 2016. Clauses included in the draft document relate to interconnection and operability, as well as economic conditions relating to network access. The proposal is available for public comment until 4 November 2015.

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