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

21 Mar 2016

Russian mobile giant VimpelCom, operating under the Beeline brand, has acquired a 50.2% stake in MVNO SIM Telecom (SIM SIM), which seeks to differentiate itself by providing a virtual service for foreign citizens in the country. VimpelCom’s general director Mikhail Slobodin told Prime Business News Agency that the transaction was almost cash-free, and leveraged the group’s prior wholesale agreement with SIM Telecom, which launched services in November 2014 over the Beeline mobile network. The remaining stake in SIM Telecom is equally split between Andrei Romanenko, a founder of regional payment system Qiwi, and his business partner Andrei Skopinsky. SIM Telecom is relaunching itself as a full MVNO under VimpelCom’s ownership this month, foregrounding its multilingual call centre as one of its key differentiators.

Correios, the Brazilian postal service, reportedly received just two applications for the role of would-be network partner, ahead of its planned MVNO launch. Local news sources have named the interested parties as mobile giant Claro Brasil and EUTV (Surf Telecom), which is better known as a mobile virtual network enabler (MVNE). The latter claims to be in possession of 4G-suitable frequencies covering Sao Paulo, but lacks the stipulated 50% nationwide coverage footprint, prompting Claro to pour scorn on its application. As previously reported by TeleGeography’s MVNO Monday, Correios suspended the selection process back in June 2015 after breaking off its planned partnership with Italian counterpart Poste Italiane, only to reconvene in January this year.

San Francisco-based MVNO Charge Mobile Data has launched a data-only service over the Sprint Corp LTE network, Fierce Wireless reports. The virtual operator provides a free SIM card, but does not support voice calls or SMS messaging. Users pay USD15 for 1GB or USD13 per GB when they buy 3GB or more on the pay-as-you-go offering. Customers can then use the data for VoIP calls, video calls, online messaging or other IP-based services.

Elsewhere in the US, Data2Go Wireless will team with London-based Stream Technologies UK to manage its Internet of Things (IoT)-focused MVNO business more effectively. Data2Go operates a data-centric MVNO that provides M2M data services to business customers across North America, ‘aggregating all US-based mobile network operators (MNOs) under a single platform’. The company will integrate its own Apogee Management Platform with Stream’s IoT-X platform, which is designed for IoT and M2M use. Data2Go Wireless was founded in 2014 by Zirrus Group.

Hong Kong’s Office of the Communications Authority (OFCA) has advised customers not to purchase or re-charge SIM cards offered by MVNO Easycall, after its (unnamed) wholesale partner opted to terminate the arrangement. The watchdog notes that Easycall has already started to wind down its pre-paid mobile service and the virtual network will be completely discontinued by end-March. According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database the Hong Kong MVNO segment accounted for 1.718 million subscribers at 31 December 2015, equivalent to just over 13% of the overall mobile market.

Finally, Singapore-based mobile virtual network aggregator (MVNA) Plintron has unveiled a major expansion plan focused on China. Mohan Kumar Sundaram, co-founder and chairman of Plintron, commented: ‘Following our resounding success in Hong Kong and Australia, we are delighted to expand our MVNA offering to China. As an industry pioneer, our investment of CNY400 million (USD61.8 million) on cloud communication technology will help revolutionise the MVNO market in China’. In May 2015 Plintron enabled the US launch of CTExcel, an MVNO owned by China Telecom Americas, suggesting future tie-ups with China Telecom’s domestic unit may be on the cards.

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