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

6 Jun 2016

India’s Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has paved the way for the introduction of MVNOs by officially authorising Unified Licence Virtual Network Operators (UL VNOs). A whole raft of tiered concessions are available, although a full unified licence is priced INR75 million (USD1.12 million), encompassing mobile, internet access, fixed line and VSAT access. VNOs will pay a licence fee and spectrum usage charges (SUC) in addition to the entry fee. As it stands, the licence fee is set at 8% of annual revenue, including the universal service obligation (USO) levy, while SUCs will correspond to that of the network service operator and may change from time to time. UL VNO concessions will be offered on a ten-year, non-exclusive basis, but depending on technological developments, the concession can be revised after three-to-four years. All applicants must be Indian companies, registered under the Indian Companies Act of 2013, while the ‘total composite foreign holding’ must be in line with the government’s foreign direct investment policy.

In related news, a number of would-be UL VNOs have already thrown their respective hats into the ring. Separate reports by the Economic Times claim that Oxigen and DataWind are both in talks with local telcos over planned MVNOs. Digital wallet firm Oxigen is in talks with state-run *BSNL*and other operators to start offering virtual services by the end of this year, while Canada-based DataWind also seeks to establish a tie-up with BSNL and hopes to register its application this month. Finally, US-based Aeris Communications, which provides machine-to-machine (M2M) services in its domestic market via the Sprint Corp network, is said to be working on a business plan to launch India’s first M2M MVNO. It is understood that Aeris will work with automobile manufacturers such as Tata Motors and Maruti Suzuki to embed its connectivity solutions, and is also working as a mobile virtual network enabler (MVNE) alongside local cellco Aircel.

In Belgium, Liberty Global-backed cableco Telenet has agreed to pay Orange Belgium a minimum fee of EUR150 million to end their MVNO agreement by the end of 2018. Telenet has used the Orange network since 2006 to deliver its MVNO service, but now wants to migrate customers to the network of its new sister company, following the acquisition of BASE earlier this year. The actual amount paid by Telenet, however, could exceed this in the event of higher network usage. Beyond 2018, Telenet has an option to extend the agreement for another six months, for a minimum EUR15 million. According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, Telenet claimed 1.021 million MVNO customers as of 31 March 2016.

M6 Mobile, the MVNO joint venture between French broadcaster M6 Group (Metropole Television) and Orange France, will be discontinued from 30 June 2019, Reuters reports. M6 will continue to receive payment from Orange for managing subscribers, and also trademark usage, until that date, while any outstanding customers will be moved onto Orange’s Sosh budget brand from 2019. M6 Mobile was established back in June 2005.

No fewer than five new MVNOs are set to launch in Mexico in the coming months, it has been revealed, after a spate of wholesale deals were signed with America Movil (AM)-owned Telcel. The first virtual operator expected to go live is Cuauhtemoc-based Buenocell, while other future players have been named as Inaecom, Neus Mobile, Quickly Phone and Maxcom. The last named company, which has operated an underperforming MVNO over the Movistar network since September 2007, is expected to launch its new virtual service in September this year, and also harbours designs of entering the MVNE space.

Elsewhere in Latin America, Peru’s Minister for Transport and Communications, Jose Gallardo Ku, has announced that Virgin Mobile Peru will launch commercially in July, La Republica reports. Parent company Virgin Mobile Latin America (VMLA) is already present in Chile, Mexico and Colombia, and will use the Movistar network in Peru.

Finally, in an interview with Mobile Today, Vivian Woodell, CEO of UK MVNO Phone Co-op, has suggested that the number of ‘MVNO corpses’ in the British market will significantly affect whether new players are willing to enter the sector. Mr Woodell commented: ‘The problem with Sainsbury’s exiting the market, and now the Post Office, is that if you want a thriving MVNO market, you don’t want a lot of corpses in the space, where it looks like others would not want to enter. The Post Office leaving the MVNO market is evidence that there is a problem, and the balance in the market is not very favourable to virtual networks … Ofcom can step in and end it tomorrow but it declined to do that.’

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