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

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10 Oct 2016

Kenyan MVNO Finserve Africa (Equitel) has passed the two million subscriber mark, according to data supplied by the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA). As per the regulator’s April-June 2016 market report, Equitel had 2.015 million users, up from 1.683 million quarter-on-quarter. Of the total, some 1.861 million were mobile money subscribers, it added. MVNO rival Sema Mobile has yet to make a significant impact, however, claiming just 275 subscribers at the same date.

T-Mobile US has reportedly offloaded its Walmart Family Mobile business to TracFone, the country’s largest MVNO by subscribers. Fierce Wireless, citing Wave7, notes that the deal includes around 1.4 million subscribers. Walmart Family Mobile launched in 2010, while the retailer operates roughly 4,600 stores in the US. TracFone brands such as Net10, Total Wireless and Straight Talk are already said to be available through Walmart.

India’s Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has issued letters of intent (LoI) to 60 would-be MVNOs, the Economic Times reports. According to the newspaper, a number of firms from so-called ‘Tier II’ cities such as Agra, Lucknow, Ahmedabad, Surat and Faridabad have been granted LoI, including Ritz Communication, Ambica Telecom Service, AXN Telecom, Ratna Telenet, AIMR Communication and Richa Telecom. As previously reported by MVNO Monday, as many as 70 firms expressed interest in VNO permits at a regional level, while ten companies applied for national licences.

Australian retail and wholesale VoIP provider MNF Group (formerly MyNetFone) has signed an MVNO deal with Telstra Wholesale, in a bid to offer a ‘complete communications solution’. Mobile services will be offered to the telco’s Domestic Wholesale customers immediately, before being made available to Domestic Retail subscribers later in FY2017. MNF’s mobile service will operate across its proprietary iBoss platform, which it claims allows new mobile players to go to market within four weeks and activate SIM cards in just seven seconds. MNF was founded in 2004 and listed on the ASX in 2006.

Filipino handset vendor-turned MVNO Cherry Mobile, which operates over the Globe Telecom network, is set to offer services in Cebu, following its launch in Manila last year. With reference to the appeal of Cebu, Cherry Mobile’s Head of Usage and Retention, Jonathan Salera, commented on the province’s significant student population, saying: ‘These students come from families of humble beginnings, they are typically budget-conscious, and are constantly in search of affordable telco offers, which encouraged them to own multiple SIMs.’ Going forward, the MVNO expects to introduce LTE-suitable SIM cards before the end of the year.

In an interview with Balancing Act, executives from Belgian vendor World Telecom Labs (WTL) have shed light on the workings of Tanzania’s rural-focused MVNO AMOTEL. Simon Pearson and Satya Mekala told the website that the solution currently being used comprises a micro-base transceiver station (BTS), a web-based billing system and two PCs for a cyber-cafe which is priced at a total of EUR22,000 (USD24,635). The system has a capacity for 28,000-30,000 simultaneous calls. Currently AMOTEL is serving three villages of 1,500 people, and 90% of all use so far is voice-based. Going forward, Mekala observed that the platform could yet be extended to other countries, noting: ‘We have had genuine interest from South Sudan, Gabon and Mauritania.’

Telecoms software provider Artilium has announced that, working through its subsidiary United Telecom, it has signed a new contract with Dutch MVNO Overal Mobiel. Artilium will provide mobile services and support in the Netherlands to Overal Mobiel, which seeks to ‘provide disruptive services to the business and corporate markets in the Netherlands’ and will act as a reseller of the Artilium solution to small MVNOs and brands.

Finally, Japanese vendor NEC Corporation has announced that domestic ISP-turned-MVNO BIGLOBE has selected its Traffic Management Solution (TMS) to deliver higher Quality of Experience (QoE) for its mobile subscribers. The TMS has been implemented across BIGLOBE’s commercial networks and will double the network throughput, enabling end users to enjoy web browsing and video streaming with lower latency and greater stability. According to NEC, the Dynamic Transmission Control Protocol Optimisation (D-TCP) function of NEC’s TMS automatically controls the volume of packets transmitted over the network in accordance with traffic conditions.

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