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

5 Dec 2016

China Unicom Global (CUG) launched its new CUniq MVNO service in London on 2 December 2016, it has been confirmed. The Chinese firm’s ‘one-card-multiple-number’ service means that customers can buy a SIM abroad and stay connected within the UK, Hong Kong and Mainland China. CUniq has been jointly launched by CUG and Isle of Man-based Manx Telecom, and piggybacks on the O2 UK network.

UK pay-TV giant Sky has unveiled its long-awaited MVNO, Sky Mobile. Pre-registrations for Sky Mobile have already reached over 46,000 and sales for Sky Mobile SIM-only contracts are due to start in mid-December to existing customers and those who have pre-registered. A full market launch will commence next year. Stephen van Rooyen, Sky’s UK and Ireland CEO, commented: ‘We felt it was time to shake up the mobile market and give customers a completely new way to manage their mobile plan – something no one else is offering. We’ve designed it based on what people told us they want – it’s easy, flexible and transparent and it puts the customer in control. With GBP2 billion being wasted each year on unused data in the UK, Sky Mobile customers will only pay for what they use.’

In Austria, Rapid Mobil, a new MVNO affiliated to SK Rapid Wien (Rapid Vienna) – the Austrian Bundesliga’s most successful football club in terms of league titles – has gone live. The MVNO was launched in conjunction with local mobile virtual network enabler (MVNE) Ventocom, and uses the ‘0677’ numbering prefix. According to the Rapid Mobil website, subscribers will receive a 10% discount in the club shop, two free tickets for home games each season, and will also have access to live streaming footage of the players in the tunnel before matches. Ventocom executive Michael Krammer, the former CEO of now-defunct Orange Austria, is Rapid Wien’s chairman.

In Russia, new ‘Freemium’ MVNO Atlas, which soft-launched last month, claims to have signed up 150,000 pre-registered customers, of which around 100,000 are based in Moscow. The cities of St. Petersburg, Kazan and Yekaterinburg were initially said to be next in line for the service, ahead of a nationwide expansion drive.

Also in Russia, long-distance operator Multiregional Transit Telecom (MTT) has reportedly inked a new wholesale deal with Tele2 Russia as it plots a renewed assault on the MVNO sector. MTT, is already active in the sector via Aiva Mobile, which has piggybacked on the Mobile TeleSystems (MTS) network since July 2014, and targets ethnic communities with ties to the former Soviet Union. According to Telecom Daily, MTT recently developed its own MVNE platform.

In a related development, Aiva Mobile has reportedly signed-up 80,000 subscribers, the bulk of which have ties to Tajikistan. Last month, Aiva Mobile extended its coverage MVNO beyond its initial markets of Moscow and St. Petersburg, to seven new cities, namely: Tula, Tver, Ryazan, Vladimir, Kaluga, Samara and Nizhny Novgorod. The virtual operator hopes to extend its service to Novosibirsk, Orenburg, Chelyabinsk and Yekaterinburg by year-end.

Finally, Tesco Mobile Slovakia and O2 Slovakia have cemented their long term MVNO partnership for an unspecified period of time, following the recent activation of Tesco’s LTE service. James McQuillan, CEO of Tesco Mobile Slovakia, commented: ‘Over the past seven years Slovak customers increasingly perceived Tesco Mobile as a strong and credible operator. The contract extension will allow us to further develop services for new and existing customers.’ According to local press sources, the MVNO currently has around 250,000 subscribers.

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