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

3 Apr 2017

US cable giant Comcast’s long-running plans to enter the country’s MVNO space are said to be taking shape, with the cableco now expected to launch under the ‘XFINITY Mobile’ brand name. According to Fierce Wireless, Comcast’s name has been added to behind-the-scenes – but publicly available – code that lists carrier bundles for the iPhone. The list of carrier bundles is used by iTunes and iPhones to determine whether the iPhone’s SIM is supported by a service provider with whom Apple has an agreement. The MVNO has been in the offing since 2011, when Verizon Wireless purchased AWS-1 spectrum from Comcast, Bright House Network, Time Warner Cable (TWC) and Cox Communications (collectively known as SpectrumCo), and in return gave those companies access to its wireless network for use in a potential MVNO offering further down the line. TeleGeography notes that XFINITY is the name currently used for the cableco’s broadband services.

A new MVNO has launched in the UK, in the form of Coventry-based Economy Mobile, which is backed by Economy Energy, an independent utilities company which currently has more than 250,000 customers. Customers who take out an energy contract with the company can receive a complimentary SIM preloaded with GBP5 (USD6.3) credit. This will be renewed every 30 days, giving them GBP60 of free credit over a year. Economy Energy’s mobile project manager Anthony Owen told Mobile News: ‘We’re uniquely positioned in the market because we’re the only MVNO to offer both utility and mobile services together. Our customers can get both from one place, which is a huge convenience. We’ve already saved them GBP12 million on energy over the last five years and I’m confident we can have the same impact with mobile.’ The MVNO, which piggybacks on the EE network, hopes to achieve 200,000 subscribers in its first year of service.

International MVNO giant Lycamobile Group has announced that it is introducing 4G LTE connectivity in Spain, in association with network partner Telefonica Espana (Movistar). The announcement marks Lycamobile’s eleventh 4G launch, following developments in Sweden and Australia in 2016. Lycamobile, which launched in October 2010, currently claims a total of 1.9 million subscribers in Spain, the press release notes. Lyca Group chairman Allirajah Subaskaran commented: ‘The introduction of 4G services in Spain demonstrates our commitment to Lycamobile customers in the country, who will benefit from the availability of fast, high-quality data. With approximately 10% of Spain’s population being made up of foreign-born citizens, this development will make it quicker and easier than ever for our customers to connect with their communities and loved ones across the globe.’

Elsewhere in Europe, Telecom Italia (TIM) officially launched its new sub-brand, Kena Mobile, on 29 March. According to unconfirmed reports, Kena Mobile will technically be a subsidiary of Noverca, the mobile virtual network aggregator (MVNA) that has been wholly owned by TIM since October 2016. Kena Mobile is expected to target the budget end of the market, ahead of the imminent launch of Iliad-owned discount player, Free. Last year Iliad agreed to pay EUR450 million (USD483 million) for spectrum and network assets freed up by the recently merged Italian operators Wind Telecomunicazioni and 3 Italia. Iliad has claimed that it will be looking to beat the lowest priced tariffs currently available in Italy by around 10%.

Finally, according to WirtschaftsWoche, online retail giant Amazon is in negotiations with German mobile network operator (MNO) trio Telefonica Deutschland, Telekom Deutschland and Vodafone Germany over a potential MVNO launch. Amazon is no stranger to MVNO speculation: the retailer was linked with a potential UK MVNO deal as far back as 2009, with Japan named as a possible virtual market in 2012.

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TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database is now home to the telecoms industry’s fastest-growing collection of MVNO data, covering more than 90 countries and 850 virtual operators. If you would like to find out more, please email sales@telegeography.com