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

13 Jun 2016

Google’s Project Fi MVNO has announced that it has added a third network partner to its virtual offer, in the shape of US Cellular. Since its launch in April 2015, users of the ‘Wi-Fi first’ Project Fi have had access to the Sprint and T-Mobile US networks, switching between the two networks when Wi-Fi – the service’s default – is not available. The addition of US Cellular will give users more connectivity options, increasing the likelihood of finding a faster connection. Evan Jacobs, product manager for Project Fi, wrote in a blog post: ‘In most areas, multiple cellular networks are available. In fact, the majority of Project Fi usage occurs in areas where more than one of our partners offers LTE coverage. But factors like obstructions from nearby buildings can meaningfully impact the speed and coverage available from each LTE connection. By analysing speeds from each network, Project Fi is able to predict the fastest network at your location – down to the city block – and automatically connect you … Your Fi device recognises when your connection is weak and adjusts in real time. By accessing multiple cellular networks, Fi users have a connection nearly 99% of the time, and spend about 95% of cellular time on LTE – which will improve even further with the addition of US Cellular.’ US Cellular offers 2G/3G services in 23 states, while its 4G network is said to be available to more than 99% of its subscribers.

Recently launched Thai MVNO The White Space Co, which trades under the ‘Penguin SIM’ brand name, has provided an update on its progress. According to the Nation, since launching in late-March, the company has already sold 200,000 of its Penguin SIM cards, while another 100,000 SIMs are currently in its distribution channels. Going forward, the company aims to lead the MVNO segment by year-end, with a conservative sales target of 300,000 to 500,000 SIMs. Underlining the MVNO’s budget-conscious approach, CEO Chaiyod Chirabowornkul commented: ‘The focus of the giants is not on small pockets, as ours is. Our key selling point is being an economy operator’. Founded by a group of former Digital Total Access Communication (DTAC) executives, the White Space Co is one of the four members of Thailand’s self-styled ‘Thailand MVNO Club’, alongside Samart i-mobile, Data CDMA Communication (MyWorld3G) and 168 Communication. The foursome seek to share operating costs and raise competitiveness.

Total Wireless, a TracFone-owned sub-brand that piggybacks on the Verizon Wireless network, now offers LTE connectivity, Pre-paid Phone News reports. Like all Verizon MVNOs, LTE data speeds are limited to a maximum of 5Mbps, the website notes. Handsets supporting LTE are available via the MVNO’s website, or through its exclusive retail partner, Walmart.

Finally, Macedonian telecoms regulator, the Agency for Electronic Communications (AEK), is reportedly planning to ‘create conditions’ for the entry of new MVNOs, following a 15% rise in mobile tariffs. AEK director Saso Dimitrijoski said that price competition in the Macedonian market has been negatively affected following a period of intense merger activity, and as a result, the watchdog has sent over 70 letters of interest to leading global operators regarding the new conditions for the opening of the market for new entrants.

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