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

31 Oct 2016

Austrian mobile virtual network enabler (MVNE) Ventocom is expected to unveil two new partnerships in the coming weeks, Der Standard reports. In its domestic market the MVNE will help to launch a new virtual player affiliated with SK Rapid Wien (Rapid Vienna) – the Austrian Bundesliga’s most successful football club in terms of league titles. Ventocom executive Michael Krammer, the former CEO of now-defunct Orange Austria, is the club’s chairman, giving the tie-up an extra boost. The new service will launch on 28 November using the ‘0677’ prefix and seeks to target the team’s 900,000-strong fan-base.

Further afield, Mr. Krammer has revealed that Ventocom is poised to collaborate on an MVNO launch in Slovenia in early 2017, following the establishment of a local business unit. The precise details remains unclear, however, although local website Tehnozvezdje.si claims that supermarket chain Hofer – an offshoot of discount retailer Aldi – is likely to be the first company to benefit from the tie-up. The Austrian Hofer Telekom (HoT) MVNO launched in January 2015 in association with Ventocom and has since gone on to amass 650,000 subscribers.

Elsewhere, Romania could see a wave of MVNO activity in the near-future. Local cable operator Digital Cable Systems (DCS), which trades as AKTA, could commercialise its long-anticipated MVNO by the end of this year. In an interview with the local Wall Street Pro website, general manager Malacopol Dinu noted that a 4Q16 launch is expected.

Meanwhile, fellow cableco UPC Romania says that its own MVNO venture will only go live once its cable footprint has passed the three million household-mark. UPC expects its network to reach between 3.2 million and 3.3 million potential customers by end-2018, at which point Robert Redeleanu, CEO of UPC Romania and Hungary told Ziarul Financiar that a decision on a virtual offering would be made. The mobile service will be offered to multi-play subscribers.

Russian bank Sberbank has reportedly signed a formal wholesale contract with Tele2 Russia, ahead of the launch of its long-rumoured MVNO. As previously reported by TeleGeography’s MVNO Monday, the financial institution hinted at its virtual network plans in July this year when it formed a subsidiary named SB-Telecom. In September this year Sberbank entered into wholesale access agreement talks with domestic mobile operators Tele2 Russia and Mobile TeleSystems (MTS), after talks regarding the acquisition of the MegaFon-backed LTE MVNO Yota failed.

Over in Mexico, weex – a youth-orientated MVNO that launched earlier this year – officially added 4G access for its users earlier this month. According to a report by local technology site Xataka, subscribers will require a new SIM card to access LTE, although the change-over process is said to be free of charge. weex was founded in 2014 by entrepreneurs John Cooper and Ricardo Suarez, and emerged from seed capital support by the Coca-Cola Founders platform. The MVNO piggybacks on the Movistar Mexico network and top-ups are available in 40,000 branches of 7-Eleven, OXXO and Circle K.

Finally, the United States’ largest MVNO by subscribers TracFone saw its user base reach 26.486 million as of 30 September 2016, up 3.0% on an annualised basis. The healthy subscriber gain was primarily driven by the recent acquisition of the Walmart Family Mobile MVNO from T-Mobile US. Total revenues for the quarter under review climbed 9.7% from USD1.722 million to USD1.888 million, while EBITDA jumped 41.1% from USD105 million to USD148 million.

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