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

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24 Apr 2017

Argentina is poised for a wave of virtual operator activity following the formal licensing of Virgin Mobile Argentina and media group Teledifusora earlier this month. The concession awards were included in the Boletin Oficial on 4 April and 5 April, respectively. The duo will join fellow MVNO licensee, Buenos Aires-based cableco TeleCentro, which received a permit in May 2016, but has yet to launch. In a related development, local business website claims that the commercial MVNO launches are likely to be delayed by the lack of available 700MHz spectrum in the Area Metropolitana Buenos Aires (AMBA). According to the report, the lack of frequencies in the capital has prompted the country’s mobile network operators (MNOs) to drag their heels in submitting wholesale reference offers to the National Entity for Communications (Ente Nacional de Comunicaciones, ENACOM).

New MVNOs could also be on the cards in Senegal, where the Authority of Regulation of Telecommunications and Posts (L’Autorite de Regulation des Telecommunications et des Postes, ARTP) has issued a public call for MVNO applications. Interested parties must pay a non-refundable XOF1 million (USD1,631) deposit, and submit their paperwork by 10.00am on 30 May 2017. Any questions regarding the process can be submitted via the following email address:

Spain’s National Commission for Markets and Competition (Comision Nacional de los Mercados y la Competencia, CNMC) has confirmed that it plans to deregulate the local MVNO market, noting that virtual operators have not been included in the European Commission’s (EC’s) Market Recommendations since 2007. The definitive measure now needs to be approved, and published in the Official State Gazette; six months after the decision is formalised the existing regulatory obligations will be lifted. In setting out its decision, the CNMC cites the presence of almost 30 MVNOs in Spain, which together account for around 15% of the overall mobile market.

According to an unconfirmed report by Dutch news site Telecompaper, Lebara Group generated revenues of EUR573 million (USD615 million) in 2016, down 8% compared with its 2015 top-line. The website cites documents filed with the Netherlands Chamber of Commerce. Meanwhile, the MVNO group’s total customer base remained stable at 3.6 million at end-2016, despite the sale of Lebara Australia in October.

According to the Hindu Business Line, Aerovoyce, the telecom services arm of digital payment aggregator AdPay, became India’s first MVNO earlier this month, when it launched its international SIM – alongside fibre-optic broadband services – in Chennai on 14 April. Going forward, Salem, Coimbatore, Thanjavur, Cuddalore and Kanyakumari have all been earmarked for connectivity.

Following the domestic merger between Vodafone Netherlands and Ziggo, which was formalised on 31 December 2016, the latter has reportedly stopped selling its standalone MVNO service. According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database the cable operator launched wireless voice services over the Vodafone network in October 2014, building upon a data-only 3G agreement signed the previous year.

Elsewhere in Europe, French MVNO group Euro Information Telecom (EI Telecom) has opted to shut down its Cofidis Mobile brand (launched in November 2011), citing a lack of brand awareness and weak subscriber take-up. The parent is urging users to migrate to the service offered by better known sister brand NRJ Mobile.

Austrian mobile virtual network enabler (MVNE) I-New has confirmed that it has signed a ‘cooperation contract’ with US mobile giant Sprint in order to provide enablement services to the North American MVNO market. Sprint claims that its network currently powers ‘more than 100’ US MVNOs; its wholesale subscriber base stood at more than 16 million at end-2016.

Virgin Mobile Middle East and Africa (VMMEA) has confirmed that it has now surpassed the 3.5 million customer mark. In announcing the milestone, VMMEA credits the role of its strategic technical partner, Symsoft, with founder Mikkel Vinter commenting: ‘We have reached previously underserved market segments by developing and evolving attractive mobile services to customers in these segments. We work with Symsoft as one of our strategic technical partners, and utilise the Symsoft MVNO platform in all our regional markets.’

MVNOs in the Czech Republic are set to be granted LTE access by O2 and Vodafone from this month. Unconfirmed local press reports have suggested that the first wave of O2 MVNOs to receive 4G data speeds will be BLESKmobil, OpenCall, emtecko (owned by insurance group Moraviatel) and Vinatel, with Tesco Mobile following next month. The first Vodafone MVNO to receive LTE connectivity, will be SAZKAmobil, meanwhile.

Vodafone Brasil (formerly Datora Mobile) has deployed what it claims is the Brazilian telecoms market’s first 100% virtualised network core. The deployment is designed to better support the telco’s activities within the machine-to-machine (M2M) and Internet of Things (IoT) sectors.

Finally, UK-based mobile virtual network aggregator (MVNA) x-Mobility has informed TeleGeography that it has provided an as-yet-unnamed East African MNO with its appVNO platform, which it says will allow the telco to offer an OTT telco app that gives subscribers a local mobile number – wherever they are in the world – through a virtual SIM. Local or international subscribers can then make and receive calls or texts anywhere in the world at a flat rate without roaming charges and without the need to replace their existing SIM. Shanks Kulam, co-founder and CMO of x-Mobility, commented: ‘We know that the operator has a large international base that wants to be able to easily and cheaply call those they have left behind at home. They also have a tech-savvy local audience that is exploring new communications methods. They’ve now installed our appVNO which will be able to address both of these issues.’

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