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

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9 Nov 2015

UK MVNOs now have access to 4G on the EE network via mobile virtual network enabler (MVNE) Transatel. Transatel is believed to provide MVNO services for 16 partners in the UK including the Phone Co-op and Post Office Mobile. The news coincides with reports that The People’s Operator (TPO) has abandoned its existing MVNO/MVNE agreement with EE/Transatel, in favour of a new wholesale tie-up with Three UK. Mark Epstein, CEO and co-founder of TPO, told Mobile Today that Three presented the MVNO with a ‘vastly superior’ 4G product, adding: ‘The deal we had with EE was probably our oldest deal, back from 2012 so we’ve been looking at it for a little while and we spoke with a number of people and from a product and commercial side we went with Three … It is a better quality 4G network, and operationally and commercially it is better’.

Elsewhere, Amaysim, Australia’s largest MVNO by subscribers, has set itself a goal of signing up a million customers by mid-2019. Chief executive Julian Ogrin told the Courier Mail that he is unconcerned by the recent entry of new players, noting: ‘What we have seen in recent times is not surprising, it is a competitive market and we have set ourselves goals that we believe we can achieve … We are not concerned that there are three operators Kogan Mobile, Woolworths, Coles getting into wholesale because we don’t look at it where the network goes, we focus on the state of the overall MVNO ecosystem is … We always benchmark ourselves against Europe, where the market two or three years ahead of Australia’. The Aussie MVNO closed out 30 June 2015 with 718,000 subscribers.

According to Omani news site The Week, FRiENDi Mobile Oman has signed up a total of 600,000 subscribers, with the virtual operator observing that one in seven people in Oman now use its services. According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, FRiENDi launched commercial pre-paid services over the network infrastructure of Omantel in April 2009, claiming to be the Middle East’s first MVNO at the time.

Five months after launching its FNB Connect MVNO, South African banking group FNB has announced that the service has signed up 100,000 active users. The virtual operator, which piggybacks on the Cell C network, launched on 15 June and is only available to existing bank customers. FNB Connect CEO Ravesh Ramlakan noted that 75% of its users are on a pre-paid plan, while people between the ages of 26 and 35 make up around 40% of the total subscriber base.

French MVNO Euro Information Telecom (EI Telecom), which owns the well-established NRJ Mobile, CIC Mobile and Credit Mutuel Mobile brands, has inked a new wholesale deal with Bouygues Telecom, meaning that it now offers a full range of services via three different French network providers. The deal augments existing agreements with Orange and SFR.

Austrian ‘no frills’ provider Yesss!, which has been operated as a sub-brand of A1 Telekom Austria since January 2013, has confirmed that it has extended LTE access to its subscribers. The new ‘Yesss! Complete LTE’ package offers 1,000 ‘units’ (minutes or SMS) alongside 5GB of 50Mbps downloads for EUR16.99 (USD18.47). Launched in April 2005 as a no-frills sub-brand by former owner Orange Austria, Yesss! is one of the most prominent players in Austria’s MVNO/reseller space.

Dutch reseller Relieve Mobile has announced that it is stopping its services from 1 March 2016. Customers must use up their existing credit by 29 January, the company has confirmed on its website, and have until the end of February to port their number to another provider. Relieve Mobile launched in Q3 2013 over the KPN network and was offered exclusively by toy retailer Bart Smit.

Finally, Japanese e-commerce group Rakuten and its telecoms arm Fusion Communications, have agreed to transfer the Rakuten Mobile MVNO business from Fusion to its parent company. The switchover is scheduled to take place on 1 December, with the press release noting that ‘the two companies aim to develop a more flexible business by defining each company’s role as the service provider and the communications line provider’. Low-cost operator Rakuten Mobile launched in October 2014 over the NTT DOCOMO LTE network.

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