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

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21 Nov 2016

US mobile giant Sprint Corp is reportedly close to finalising a deal to take a majority stake in i-wireless, which is owned by grocery chain Kroger Group. According to, Sprint ‘is in the final stages of regulatory review’ to buy 70% of the Kentucky-headquartered MVNO, which uses Sprint’s network to provide nationwide coverage. The grocery chain would retain a 15% stake in the company, as would Genie Global, a current stakeholder that was acquired by Sprint parent SoftBank Group Corp earlier this year. As previously reported by TeleGeography’s MVNO Monday, in May this year Sprint announced that it had entered into an agreement with i-wireless to merge its Assurance Wireless service with i-wireless’ Access Wireless business. The enlarged entity targets users of the government-subsidised ‘Lifeline’ scheme.

Also in the US, US Mobile, which launched MVNO services in early 2015, has informed Fierce Wireless that it now has 20,000 customers on its books, a figure that it expects to grow to around 100,000 by the end of 2017. US Mobile founder Ahmed Khattak told the website that his company primarily targets college students and seniors with its customisable pre-paid service plans. He added that the MVNO is seeing churn of around 4% and ARPU of around USD20-USD25 per month.

In the UK, Sheffield-based broadband provider Plusnet – part of the BT Group – is poised to enter the MVNO sector via the former LIFE Mobile unit. Mobile phone retailer Phones4u launched LIFE Mobile in 2013, but the company went into administration in September 2014. EE purchased LIFE from administrators PwC and it has since run as a separate business. More recently, BT inherited the MVNO unit as part of its GBP12.5 billion (USD15.4 billion) takeover of EE. Plusnet Mobile will offer four tariffs ranging from GBP5 for 500MB of data, 250 minutes and 500 texts to GBP15 for 4GB and unlimited calls and texts. The MVNO has around 150,000 users at present, and all existing LIFE Mobile customers will be transferred to Plusnet as part of the rebranding exercise. The ‘new’ MVNO will offer 4G LTE access from launch, and is scheduled to go live on 29 November on a SIM-only basis.

Russian bank Sberbank, which signed a formal wholesale contract with Tele2 Russia earlier this year, is expected to commercialise its long-awaited MVNO service from the middle of 2017. The bank’s deputy chairman Lev Khasis told RIA Novosti: ‘We are confident that we can enter the market with a ‘Wow!’ product,’ but the executive declined to provide additional details at this juncture.

Also in Russia, long-distance operator Multiregional Transit Telecom (MTT) has reportedly extended the coverage offered by its Aiva Mobile MVNO beyond its initial markets, Moscow and Saint Petersburg, to seven new cities, namely: Tula, Tver, Ryazan, Vladimir, Kaluga, Samara and Nizhny Novgorod. According to Telecom Daily, the MVNO hopes to extend its service to Novosibirsk, Orenburg, Chelyabinsk and Yekaterinburg by year-end. The MVNO has piggybacked on the Mobile TeleSystems (MTS) network since July 2014, and targets ethnic communities with ties to the former Soviet Union.

iGEM Communications Holdings has announced that it has acquired Globalgig from the Voiamo Group through an asset purchase agreement. Under the terms of the agreement, the acquisition includes the core assets of the Globalgig business, including the MVNO agreements, supplier contracts, its customer base, and the team of innovators that have developed the Globalgig product and service offering. iGEM CEO Ernest Cunningham commented: ‘When we discovered Globalgig, with its existing network of 13 MVNO agreements and 100-plus country mobile footprint, it was obvious that the company would become the cornerstone to iGEM’s strategy of providing mobile data and connectivity solutions to global enterprises.’

Finally, Artilium has confirmed that it will provide mobile services and support to Dutch MVNO 88 Mobile, which targets travellers and international callers, with a specific focus on the Chinese community. The solution is expected to allow 88 Mobile to facilitate new deployments more quickly, while maintaining significant flexibility in the set-up. Artilium notes that its cloud platform also will enables 88 Mobile to roll out its services to other countries quickly and cost efficiently.

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Netherlands, Russia, United Kingdom, United States, 88 Mobile, Aiva Mobile (Russia), Artilium, BT Group (incl. Openreach), EE, Kroger Wireless, LIFE Mobile, MTT (owned by MTS), Plusnet, Sprint Corporation (became part of T-Mobile US), US Mobile