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

18 Jan 2016

Italian ISP Fastweb is preparing to become a full MVNO, and in the process will move its wholesale agreement from 3 Italia to TIM (formerly Telecom Italia). According to local business daily Il Sole 24 Ore, the telco has submitted a request to the Ministry of Economy and Finance (Ministero dell’Economia e delle Finanze) to switch networks, a process that is expected to take several months to complete. TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database reports that Fastweb launched over 3 Italia’s network in September 2008.

According to a report by China-based English-language website C114.net, the number of MVNO subscribers in China reached 18 million at the end of November 2015, with just six virtual operators accounting for around 88% of the total. The bulk of China’s MVNO users are believed to live in the east of the country, with the top five provinces named as Guangdong, Zhejiang, Jiangsu, Shandong and Beijing; the last named accounts for more than 50% of the Chinese MVNO subscriber total. Further, the report notes that all but three of China’s 42 MVNOs are now operational. The information was provided by Xu Lidong, director of market research at the Planning and Design Research Institute of the China Academy of Telecommunication Research.

Gazprom, the world’s largest natural gas extractor, has launched an MVNO for the use of its employees. The company claims that the launch of the virtual network – which utilises MegaFon’s infrastructure – makes it the first Russian corporation to have its own mobile service. Initially, Gazprom says that it has distributed over 5,000 SIM cards in Moscow and St Petersburg, but ultimately targets around 450,000 users.

New MVNO Forbesfone, a partner of the internationally renowned Forbes magazine, has selected French firm Oberthur Technologies to actively support its international deployment with the delivery of cards, solutions and bespoke services such as packaging and delivery of SIM cards directly to recipients located in any part of the world. Malta-based Forbesfone purports to offer coverage of more than 190 countries, and will specialise in the provision of services targeting business people. Walter Komarek, CEO of Forbesfone, commented: ‘Redefining roaming is the aim of our game. We have carefully studied the needs of the frequent traveller and understand that mobile connectivity can be a burden both financially and operationally. We believe our mobile service will be a game changer in the telecoms industry’.

Otelo, a discount sub-brand run by Vodafone Germany, is poised to take over fellow budget operator FrischFunk, Teltarif.de reports. The change will take effect on 1 February. Hamburg-based FrischFunk launched as an MVNO as recently as November 2014, piggybacking on the network of its future owner, Vodafone.

Telenor Denmark announced last week that its pre-paid brand Bibob will be discontinued from 22 February, with the existing business folded into the telco’s CBB Mobil operation. Customers will be able to retain their current service plan and SIM card, Telenor noted. Jesper Hansen, CEO of Telenor Denmark, commented: ‘We are on a strategic journey to simplify the whole of Telenor to make it as simple as possible for customers to trade with us and as simple as possible for ourselves to do business’. TeleGeography notes that the move has been on the cards for a long time; the two companies were technically merged back in 2010 and despite the dual-branding the companies have been part of the same legal entity for almost six years.

According to the Nation, Kenyan MVNO Equitel (Finserve Africa) has seen off a legal challenge from the Consumers Federation of Kenya (COFEK), which had disputed the award of its licence. Lady Justice Mumbi Ngugi ruled that there was no evidence to prove that the concession – granted back in April 2014 – was obtained irregularly, and that the money transfer service provided by Equity Bank’s MVNO does not violate consumers’ rights.

Finally, French MVNO Coriolis Telecom says it is interested in acquiring the business telecoms assets of Bouygues Telecom, which could ease some regulatory pressure on Orange’s EUR10 billion (USD10. 9 billion) bid for its smaller rival, Les Echos reports. The newspaper quotes Pierre Bontemps, CEO of Coriolis, as saying: ‘We will have the critical mass to offer a real alternative to the future duopoly in the enterprise 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 sales@telegeography.com

China, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Kenya, Malta, Russia, BiBoB (Denmark), CBB Mobil (Denmark), Corioris, Fastweb, Finserve Africa (Equitel), Forbesfone, Frischfunk, Gazprom, Oberthur Technologies, Otelo, Telenor Denmark