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

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21 Dec 2015

Google Inc has expanded its mobile virtual network operator service Project Fi, which it launched in April 2015, to include data-only Nexus tablets and Apple iPads – albeit with some limitations. As previously reported by MVNO Monday, Google’s fledgling product is based on a model that charges users only for the data they actually use each month. Running on the networks of Sprint Corp and T-Mobile US, the search engine-turned telco is offering its MVNO customers the option to share data plans, plus other features including: flat rate over-usage fees on a per GB basis; ‘free’ voice calls and SMS in the US; and low-rate international calls, akin to the Google Voice service. Local press reports note, however, that unlike the network hopping provided between the host network providers for smartphone users, the tablet service is only supported by T-Mobile for the data-only SIMs. That said, the service is also ‘free’, with users paying only for the data they actually use. Google says that the new tablet service is being rolled out gradually and that customers should see the option to order the new SIM cards ‘in the next couple of days’.

Telekom Srbija is to target the Serbian diaspora elsewhere in Europe with a series of MVNO ventures under the M:tel brand name. According to local newspaper Danas, the Eastern European telco, which unveiled its M:tel Austria virtual unit on 1 October, seeks to expand to Switzerland and Germany in 2016. Both countries are home to a large number of Serbian expatriates.

Social media giant Facebook has teamed with MVNO Virgin Mobile Mexico for the latest launch of ‘Free Basics’, the product of its initiative, as it attempts to reach the half of the country’s population who are not online. Facebook’s founder Mark Zuckerberg announced the launch on his own Facebook page, commenting: ‘Now half of the population who are unconnected will have free access to internet services for education, health, jobs and communication on the Virgin Mobile network … I believe spreading internet access will not only create opportunities in Mexico, but also create more understanding of this great country and its people.’ According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, Virgin Mobile launched its MVNO in Mexico in 2014 and uses the Movistar network to deliver its service.

Russian long-distance operator Multiregional Transit Telecom (MTT) has launched a new mobile reseller service in Finland, Aiva Mobile, specifically targeted at tourists and business travellers working in or visiting the two countries. The MVNO has been introduced in partnership with Finnish cellco DNA, and builds on the previous launch of a virtual operator by MTT in Tajikistan, where it has launched in partnership with network owner Babilon-Mobile. The brand is aimed at ethnic communities of the former Soviet Union, and could yet see MTT expand the operation into Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, reports suggest.

Privately-held Arterra Mobility, which operates as an MVNO from its base in McLean, Virginia, has announced the signing of a partnership agreement with ACN, which describes itself as one of the largest direct sellers of telecommunications, energy, and other essential services, concerning the recent launch of its new Flash Wireless 4G LTE MVNO service. Arterra claims that Flash Wireless provides users with a range of ‘affordable, flexible rate plans, including family plans, contract or no contract options’.

Discussing Carphone Warehouse’s UK virtual operator service iD with Mobile Today, Dixon Carphone Group CEO Sebastian James commented: ‘This has been a very good first half for Dixons Carphone. Against a broadly flat market overall and a very strong comparative period we have seen continued like-for-like growth driven by market share gains across all territories … It is also great to see iD, our new MVNO, hitting the milestone of 200,000 subscribers to date.’

UK MVNO The People’s Operator (TPO) is confident it is on course to hit its 69,000 subscribers target by the year end, a figure it hopes to double to 140,000 by the end of 2016. As a result, TPO said it expects revenues to be around GBP8.1 million (USD12.1 million) for the next financial year. In a recent trading update the group said: ‘The large scale investment required to establish the US operation has come to an end and the company is experiencing revenue growth in both the UK and US … While the pace of growth is slower than expected a year ago, the company is making steady progress and the directors remain confident of the long-term prospects for the company’. AIM-listed TPO is led by Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales. it is committed to achieving 2% market share across the US and UK by 2021.

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Finland, Mexico, Russia, Serbia, United Kingdom, United States, Aiva Mobile (Russia), Aiva Mobile (Tajikistan), Aiva Mobile Finland (MVNO), Facebook, Google (Alphabet), Mtel Austria, Project Fi (Google MVNO), Telekom Srbija (MTS), The People’s Operator (TPO - UK), Virgin Mobile Mexico