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

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5 Sep 2016

LetterOne (L1), the Luxembourg-based international investment vehicle affiliated with Russia’s Alfa Group, has announced a ‘strategic partnership’ with California-based MVNO FreedomPop. The tie-up follows L1’s receipt of clearance from the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States to complete its USD50 million investment in the MVNO. The funding will be used to support the ‘freemium’ MVNO’s international expansion plans. Alexey Reznikovich, L1 Technology’s managing partner, commented: ‘FreedomPop are true digital pioneers. It is disrupting the businesses of traditional mobile carriers by giving people ways to use mobile devices free of any call charges. As the telecoms market consolidates, and technologies advance, it’s important to remain ahead of the curve in terms of new customer propositions.’

Japan’s IIJ has announced that it will become the country’s first Full MVNO in the 2017 fiscal year, via an updated agreement with long term host provider NTT DOCOMO. As such, IIJ completed the application process for cooperation on NTT DOCOMO’s subscriber management function on 29 August. It has also received a written approval from the cellco, which will allow it to commercialise the new service from next year. According to IIJ, its Full MVNO services will be operated using an in-house Home Location Register (HLR)/Home Subscriber Server (HSS, [databases for managing SIM cards]), thereby making it possible to procure and issue its own SIM cards and design their services with more freedom. In other news, IIJ began offering its new ‘IIJmio Global Travel SIM Service’ on 16 August, allowing customers to use data and voice calls in 42 countries outside Japan.

A1 Telekom Austria has informed TeleGeography that it has assisted the launch of two new branded resellers, Krone Mobile and Kurier Mobil. The pair are affiliated to two of Austria’s largest paid newspapers, Krone, which has the biggest circulation in the country, and third-placed Kurier. According to A1, every subscriber to one of the respective print editions gets 1GB extra data per month and will also receive a free ePaper version of his or her chosen newspaper.

Norwegian MVNO Banzai is terminating its operations and selling all of its customers to Telenor’s Talkmore brand, according to an excerpt from an Inside Telecom article. Managing director Pal E. Vegard seemingly lays the blame at the door of Telia, its network provider, for the MVNO’s lack of success. Banzai launched in November 2014.

Parcom Investment has secured a 30% to 40% stake in Dutch MVNO Simpel. The virtual operator, which launched services in 2007 over the KPN network, was acquired by T-Mobile in 2010 only to be sold to insurance company Nationale-Nederlanden on 1 August 2014. According to local press estimates the MVNO has around 450,000 subscribers, making it one of the largest resellers operating in the country.

Tunisian telecoms regulator the National Telecommunications Authority (Instance Nationale des Telecommunications, INT) has ordered Lycamobile Tunisia to respect the requirements for mobile number portability (MNP) by 1 September, or face sanctions. Lycamobile was previously warned in April this year that it needed to implement MNP, but missed its self-imposed 9 August deadline. At the time of writing it remains unclear as to whether Lycamobile has complied with the watchdog’s instruction.

Bitflux Communications, the Nigerian consortium which secured a national 2.3GHz spectrum licence in February 2014, has launched commercial wholesale LTE services in partnership with Alepo. With Alepo’s core LTE solution and built-in affiliate management, Bitflux is able to operate as a mobile virtual network enabler (MVNE), supporting multiple MVNO operations on a single hosted platform.

Austrian MVNE I-New has confirmed that it enabled the recent launch of new Mexican MVNO Simpati Mobile, which went live over the Movistar network last month. Simpati’s chief marketing officer Fernando de Haro commented: ‘We based our choice on behalf of I-New due to best time to market, local know-how and experience with Mexican MVNOs and their smooth relationship with Telefonica’. The contract represents the MVNE’s third such agreement in Mexico to date, with more launches said to be in the pipeline.

In related news, I-New has also facilitated the recent launch of Virgin Mobile Peru. With Virgin Mobile Latin America (VMLA) CTO Jim Glass citing the ‘calmest and most controlled’ Virgin launch in Latin America to date It has also been confirmed that the two parties have extended their MVNE contract for a further five years.

Plintron has announced that it has supported the launch of as as-yet-unnamed MVNO in Macedonia. Mohan Kumar Sundaram, co-founder and chairman at Plintron, commented: ‘We are delighted to expand our business through our Cloud Communication Platform in Macedonia thus expanding our footprint in the Balkan region. We have also deployed a local data centre within Macedonia to comply with the regulatory requirements. It is noteworthy that we could launch a full MVNO brand with a quick turnaround time of less than ten weeks.’

Finally, former Vodacom executive Romeo Kumalo plans to launch a new virtual operator business in South Africa, he has revealed to TechCentral, describing the venture as a ‘massive’ project that has consumed much of his focus since leaving the telco. Kumalo, however, remained tight-lipped about possible timeframes and network partners. The executive, who quit the South Africa-based group in mid-2015, has co-founded a venture capital firm called Washirika Holdings with former Absa marketing director and SuperSport CEO Happy Ntshingila and two other partners to invest in the ICT sector, the website notes.

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