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

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14 Dec 2015

Following widespread reports that US cable giant Comcast is poised to activate a dormant MVNO deal signed with Verizon Wireless back in 2011, rival operator Charter Communications has become the latest company to throw its hat into the virtual ring. Addressing its tentative MVNO plans, Charter CEO Tom Rutledge noted that it too will have an MVNO option with Verizon as part of its takeovers of Time Warner Cable (TWC) and Bright House Networks. Both TWC and Bright House were part of the SpectrumCo consortium that sold spectrum to Verizon in 2011. Speaking at the UBS Global Media and Communications Conference in New York, Rutledge commented: ‘Ultimately the mobile platform is something that we’re going to want to reach … We’ll be stepping into an MVNO relationship with the contract in Time Warner and Bright House, and so we need to think through our wireless strategy as we go forward’. Charter expects to close its acquisitions of TWC and Bright House by mid-2016.

New York-based pre-paid, long-distance and mobile top-up provider Pure Minutes has announced that it has formalised acquisition talks with US MVNO UVA Mobile, and to that end the pair have executed a joint letter of intent of purchase and sale. By combining the impending acquisition of UVA with the recent announcement of Pure Minutes’ partnership with Mobitize Corporation, Pure Minutes claims that the tie-up will allow it to be the first company in the market to combine bill-payment, mobile banking, international and domestic mobile top-up and pre-paid service all directly integrated in a mobile carrier’s SIM card.

Chilean fixed line operator Grupo GTD, which became the first company in the country to launch as an MVNO back in October 2011, has reportedly made 4G technology available to its subscribers. The telco, which piggybacks on the Movistar Chile network, markets its GTD Movil service through its Telsur and GTD Manquehue units. According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database GTD Movil claimed just 9,142 subscribers at the end of June 2015, equivalent to less than 2% of the MVNO market as a whole.

The Spanish MVNO market has passed the nine million subscriber mark, according to data published by the National Commission of Markets and Competition (Comision Nacional de los Mercados y la Competencia, CNMC). As of 31 October 2015 the number of MVNO SIM cards in circulation stood at 9.02 million, equivalent to 17.8% of the overall wireless market. Major MVNOs in Spain include Jazztel, ONO and Lycamobile.

Finally, the deadline for submissions to the European Commission (EC) regarding the acquisition of O2 UK by Three UK owner CK Hutchison (formerly Hutchison Whampoa) has now passed. The watchdog’s ultimate decision is expected to have significant bearing on the UK MVNO market, with O2 and Three two of the sectors major wholesalers. With the 12 December deadline looming, the EC took the unusual step of encouraging British MVNOs to submit their concerns via the International MVNO Association (iMXNOx). The Commission said that this was to provide a layer of confidentiality for virtual operators that did not want to jeopardise their network agreements. Since the merger was unveiled in March 2015, MVNOs have been vocal in their criticisms of the deal, arguing that the tie-up threatens to significantly affect competition in the UK wholesale mobile market.

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TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database is now home to the telecoms industry’s fastest-growing collection of MVNO data, covering more than 60 countries and 100 virtual operators. If you would like to find out more, please email