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

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17 Oct 2016

Self-styled ‘freemium’ MVNO FreedomPop has announced that it is teaming up with satellite TV giant DISH to launch in Mexico. Under the agreement, FreedomPop will oversee the operational aspects of the Mexico venture, which will include the extension of its team, technology and analytics. DISH will assist by providing local expertise, distribution and customer service, as well as additional funding. Mexican investment firm VARIV has also been named as a strategic partner. Ernesto Vargas-Guajardo, CEO and director of DISH Mexico’s parent company MVS Comunicaciones, said the partnership will help DISH ‘deliver consumer value’ through a ‘proven’ model. FreedomPop currently offers its services in the US, UK and Spain, and media reports have suggested that the tie-up with DISH is likely to offer a blueprint for its international expansion plans.

Elsewhere in Mexico, another new MVNO has now gone live in the form of Flash Mobile. The newcomer, which piggybacks on the Movistar Mexico network, officially launched today (17 October), and supports 4G connectivity from launch.

Sky UK has revealed that it has completed its first live calls, SMS and data sessions, ahead of the launch of its long-awaited MVNO. As per the pay-TV giant’s most recent quarterly trading update, it has also provisioned its own SIMs and concluded international roaming agreements. The virtual operator will piggyback on the O2 UK network, having struck a wholesale deal back in January 2015. CEO Jeremy Darroch commented: ‘The forthcoming launch of our mobile proposition will add another major product offering to our UK line up and will give our customers the opportunity to take even more from a brand known for great customer services and quality products.’

Iran’s Communications Regulatory Authority (CRA) has reportedly granted 24 MVNO licences, after receiving 51 applications by the 21 August deadline. All parties must now sign a contract with one of Iran’s incumbent mobile operators; each MNO is obliged to sign a wholesale contract with at least two would-be MVNOs. The watchdog expects the contract phase to be finalised by the end of the current Iranian year (20 March 2017). As previously reported by TeleGeography’s MVNO Monday, the CRA received MVNO applications from a mixture of fixed line telcos, domestic banks and international operators.

European mobile virtual network enabler (MVNE) Transatel has announced that it has been contracted to act as the technical enabler for Belgian MVNO duo JIM Mobile and Mobile Vikings as they transition to ‘Full MVNO’ status. The two MVNOs are currently part of the Belgian media group MEDIALAAN. The agreement has been on the cards since February 2016, when the European Commission cleared the acquisition of mobile network operator (MNO) BASE by Liberty Global. Remedies included a commitment to ensure MEDIALAAN could compete effectively as a Full MVNO.

Italian ISP-turned-MVNO Fastweb is poised to move to the TIM network from 3 Italia in January 2017, as part of its transition to Full MVNO status. The original MVNO went live back in September 2008. In May 2016 it was reported that Fastweb could be interested in acquiring any mobile spectrum and infrastructure freed up as part of the proposed merger between Wind Telecomunicazioni and 3 Italia. It was eventually beaten by the French telco Iliad, however, which announced an agreement to buy selected Wind and 3 assets in July 2016.

France has a new MVNO in the form of Assouka Telecom, which piggybacks on the Orange network. Based in Toulouse, the virtual operator is reportedly the brainchild of Beninese telecoms engineer Michael Akpoli, and seeks to offer preferential tariffs to 33 African countries. Akpoli hopes that the MVNO will sign up 15,000 customers by 2017.

Finally, Russian corporate telco Gars Telecom has boosted its B2B credentials with the launch of a new mobile product suite, in association with its sister company MegaFon. Gars cites that the new solution combines the ‘cutting-edge infrastructural benefits’ of working with MegaFon, and ‘the best practices of individual client service’ established by Gars itself.

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