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

25 Jan 2016

US-based MVNO FreedomPop, which also launched in the UK in September 2015, has announced that it has raised an additional USD50 million in financing, bringing its total funding to over USD109 million. The funds will be used to accelerate the company’s international expansion in parts of Europe, Asia and South America. Last week the virtual operator unveiled its ‘Global Hotspot’, which aggregates cellular networks from across the world to give users a single seamless data connection for free. It will initially provide US and UK users with free global data in 25 countries including the US, the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Austria, Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Denmark, Ireland, Portugal, Greece, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Croatia, Romania, Bulgaria and Czech Republic. FreedomPop plans to expand coverage to over 40 countries by end-2016, including parts of Asia and Latin America. The MVNO also confirmed that it has attracted more than one million subscribers since its initial launch, back in October 2014.

PTEL Mobile, the pre-paid MVNO brand used by PlatinumTel Communications in the US, will be discontinued from 31 January. According to PrePaidPhoneNews.com, a statement released by the company reads: ‘We regret to inform you that after 15 long years, PlatinumTel’s journey in wireless has come to an end and we will no longer offer service effective the end of January.’ Subscribers are requested to register their desired ‘port outs’ by 26 January, in order to retain their existing numbers. The website notes that PTEL’s charity-themed offshoot GIV Mobile will shut down on the same date. PTEL piggybacked on the T-Mobile US network.

Japanese telco Internet Initiative Japan (IIJ) has announced that the number of subscriptions to its multi-carrier MVNO business passed the one million mark as of December 2015, reaching 1.073 million by year-end. IIJ began offering its ‘IIJ Mobile Service’ for corporate customers in 2008, and has steadily grown its business in recent years, after embracing the Internet of Things (IoT) and machine-to-machine (M2M) sectors.

Another MVNO that has passed the one million subscriber mark is Telenet of Belgium. On 18 January, the Liberty Global-backed virtual operator confirmed that it had achieved the milestone, noting that its user base had tripled during the last three years. TeleGeography notes that Telenet launched its MVNO service in July 2006, piggybacking on the Mobistar network.

Russian 4G MVNO Yota, which provides services over the network infrastructure of its parent company MegaFon, has extended its services to a further seven regions, ComNews reports. New areas covered include: the Republic of Altai, Karelia, Kabardino-Balkaria, Adygea and North Ossetia, as well as Voronezh and Novgorod. The development means that Yota now has a presence in 74 regions. Elsewhere in Russia, regional operator SMARTS-Cheboksary, which has been majority owned by MegaFon since its takeover in November 2014, has been granted permission to operate as an MVNO in the Chuvash Republic, by the local branch of the Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Communications (Roskomnadzor). While the precise terms of the concession remain unclear, it seems likely that Roskomnadzor’s statement relates to the ongoing integration of the MegaFon and SMARTS-Cheboksary networks, and not to a separate MVNO arrangement.

Elsewhere, Movistar Ecuador has announced that its sub-brand Tuenti now offers 4G technology for subscribers to its ‘Combo’ packages. The 4G service is free of charge to existing subscribers. LTE coverage is currently available in Guayaquil, Salinas Quito, Cuenca, Azogues, Ambato and Tonsupa.

Finally, BT Mobile, the MVNO launched by British incumbent BT Group back in March 2015, has installed Openet’s NFV-ready Evolved Charging solution. By deploying the virtualised charging platform, BT will be able to rapidly test and introduce new mobile services, quickly adopt new business models and minimise associated costs, as well as provide real-time insights for customers to give them complete control over their mobile services. The long-term future of the MVNO remains unclear; earlier this month BT’s GBP12.5 billion (USD17.8 billion) buyout of UK mobile giant EE was given final clearance by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).

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