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

25 Apr 2016

Self-styled ‘Freemium’ MVNO FreedomPop has announced the launch of services in Spain, its third market after the US and the UK. In a post on the company’s official blog, Steven Sesar, FreedomPop COO and co-founder, commented: ‘With more than 70% of Spain’s mobile consumers using WhatsApp, it has completely cannibalised traditional mobile services in Spain and shaped a unique opportunity for companies looking to embrace the new OTT world we live in’. As such, FreedomPop will zero-rate the application to offer free data for any WhatsApp usage, giving FreedomPop users completely free unlimited texting and calling. The blog goes on to say that FreedomPop is on course to sign up 100,000 UK subscriber within twelve months of its September 2015 launch, but expects to see larger traction in Spain, where it targets 500,000 to one million users within two years. More than 50% of UK users do not pay FreedomPop a penny each month, the blog notes, with the heavier users paying a fraction of what competitive plans cost.

weex, a new youth-orientated MVNO which allows users ‘to benefit from full cost and quota transparency’, has launched in Mexico, in association with Austrian mobile virtual network enabler (MVNE) I-New. weex, was founded in 2014 by entrepreneurs John Cooper and Ricardo Suarez, and emerged from seed capital support by the Coca-Cola Founders platform. The MVNO closed its Series A funding in March this year, including money from ALLVP, one of Mexico’s leading early-stage venture firms. The MVNO piggybacks on the Movistar network and top-ups are available in 40,000 branches of 7-Eleven, OXXO and Circle K.

Russian cableco ER-Telecom has launched its second MVNO project, in the Novosibirsk region, in conjunction with MegaFon, T-Daily reports. The virtual network is expected to be extended to Omsk and Krasnoyarka in due course. As previously reported by TeleGeography’s MVNO Monday, the operator launched its first MVNO service, in Kirov, in partnership with Tele2, earlier this month. Going forward, ER-Telecom plans to launch mobile services in all 56 cities where it is operational.

The People’s Operator has confirmed that it now has more than 100,000 subscribers across its two markets of operation. In its annual report the so-called ‘cause-based’ MVNO notes that its UK subscriber numbers grew from approximately 14,000 at end-2014 to 69,000 one year later. This upward growth trend has continued into the current year, with subscriber numbers reaching 80,489 as of 31 March 2016. In the US, meanwhile, the company claimed 21,000 customers at the same date. In financial terms, the company posted a net loss of GBP10.454 million (USD15.053 million) for the year ended 31 December 2015, compared to GBP2.328 million in FY2014.

FNB Connect, the MVNO operated by South African financial institution First National Bank (FNB), started offering LTE connectivity last week, local website Fin24 reports. Chief commercial officer Shadrack Palmer told the publication that FNB Connect’s LTE service supports coverage in Gauteng, the Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal. The virtual operator, which piggybacks on the Cell C network, launched on 15 June 2015. Since its launch, FNB Connect has notched up over 200,000 subscribers – according to a tweet last month from the bank’s CEO Jacques Celliers. The MVNO passed the 100,000 subscriber mark in November 2015.

Finally, Slovenian MVNO IZI Mobil has confirmed that it now offers 4G access to end users, via its existing wholesale agreement with Telekom Slovenije. The original virtual network went live back in November 2005.

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Mexico, Russia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, United Kingdom, United States, ER-Telecom (Dom.ru), FNB Connect (South Africa), FreedomPop, FreedomPop Espana, I-New, IZI, The People’s Operator (TPO - UK), The People’s Operator (TPO - US), weex (incl. Yo)