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

23 Nov 2015

Belgian cableco Telenet has signed two separate deals to sell off MVNO customers currently attributed to local mobile operator Base, as it strives to secure European Commission (EC) approval for its planned takeover of the company. Telenet has entered into agreements with Medialaan, under the terms of which it will transfer control of JIM Mobile and Mobile Vikings to the Flemish broadcaster. As it stands, JIM Mobile products are sold via a partnership arrangement between Base and Medialaan, with the latter marketing the service and Base providing all other service/support aspects. The deal will see Base transferring JIM Mobile customers to Medialaan over a two-year period. In the second deal, Telenet is selling off Base’s 50% stake in VikingCo, the company behind the Mobile Vikings brand in Belgium, to Medialaan; the TV operator plans to acquire the other 50% of the company in a separate transaction. Both agreements are conditional on Telenet receiving competition authority approval for its EUR1.3 billion (USD1.4 billion) acquisition of Base, as unveiled in April this year.

US MVNO SMART World Mobile has announced that it will be discontinuing its virtual service effective 30 November 2015. The company, which is backed by PLDT Global, the international arm of Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company (PLDT), only launched in June 2014 via a wholesale agreement with T-Mobile US. The California-based virtual operator went live in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Honolulu, San Diego and Las Vegas. SMART’s withdrawal from the sector marks the second confirmed departure of a major international telecoms operator from the US MVNO market. In February CommsUpdate revealed that Japan’s NTT DOCOMO USA Wireless is looking to terminate its US MVNO on 31 March 2016.

Elsewhere in the US, Seattle-based virtual operator Solavei has confirmed that it will be shutting down on 4 December. US technology site GeekWire, citing a webcast aired by CEO Ryan Wuerch, quotes the executive as saying that his company was not able to ‘reach terms with [its] current mobile service provider to continue providing quality, cost-effective service to [its] members’. Solavei’s service piggybacked on T-Mobile US’s nationwide 4G network, and ahead if its shutdown, the former is recommending that customers port their number to T-Mobile’s pre-paid service, which will be offered a series of introductory offers as an incentive to switch. Solavei launched in 2012, at the time causing a stir with its ‘multi-level marketing’ sales strategy.

World Telecom Labs (WTL) has announced that it has been appointed by AMOTEL – Tanzania’s first licensed MVNO – to bring voice and data to remote rural villages close to Lake Tanganyika in the Katavi Region. Going forward, these services will be expanded to other villages in the Kigoma, Njombe and Kilimanjaro regions. AMOTEL, which was handed its virtual operator concession in June and will piggyback on the Tanzania Telecommunications Company Limited (TTCL) network, will use WTL’s new ‘Vivada’ (Village Voice and Data) system, which it claims offers a low OPEX, low-CAPEX solution to deliver connectivity in underserved villages. AMOTEL is owned by Dar es Salaam-based Mkulima African Telecommunications Company (MTC).

Saudi Arabia-based Lebara Mobile KSA has signed an agreement with Huawei Technologies for the supply of a virtual platform in the Kingdom, enabling it to become a mobile virtual network enabler (MVNE) and provide additional services to other telecom operators in the country and across the region. Fadi Kawar, CEO of Lebara Mobile KSA, commented: ‘Deploying this new platform is a significant step in augmenting the infrastructure of Lebara so that we can provide more advanced offerings and higher customer service based on transparency, simplicity and quality with competitive and unprecedented rates’.

Finally, US MVNO GIV Mobile has tapped Tweakker to implement a cloud-based customer care solution. The contract will allow it to embed Tweakker’s smartphone ‘Device Guides’ on its website which seamlessly connects to the vendor’s cloud. GIV Mobile, which is owned by PTEL Mobile, offers a ‘Save the World’ package that provides unlimited plans starting at USD20 per month; GIV donates 8% of the monthly tariff to the charity of the subscriber’s choice.

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