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

12 Jun 2017

Iranian MVNO ApTel, which is owned by local firm NeginTel, has confirmed that it started to distribute post-paid SIM cards on 11 June, making it one of the first licensed virtual operators in the country to enter the market. According to ApTel, the SIM cards will enable end-users to access LTE and 4G+ (LTE-Advanced) speeds, suggesting that MTN Irancell may be the host network.

In a further Iranian development, the Financial Tribune reports that ApTel has signed a partnership agreement with Tractor Sazi Tabriz Football Club, which is owned by Iran Tractor Manufacturing Company, and plays in Iran’s Persian Gulf Pro League. The tie-up will reportedly allow Tractor to offer branded SIM cards under the AzarTel name.

In other football-related MVNO news, major Brazilian football club Sport Club Corinthians Paulista (Corinthians) has launched an MVNO under the SmarTimao brand name. Interestingly, the new service is owned by Mais AD, the MVNO previously launched by the Brazilian arm of the Assembly of God. Like that MVNO, SmarTimao utilises the Telefonica Brasil (Vivo) network.

Elsewhere in Brazil, Correios Cellular, which is owned by the Brazilian post office, has extended its services to Rio de Janeiro and Brasilia, following its launch in Sao Paulo in March this year. By the end of 2017, Correios Cellular plans to extend the mobile product to some 3,600 cities across the country, attracting around 500,000 users.

In Russia social network VKontakte, which is indirectly owned by local mobile giant MegaFon – following the latter’s USD740 million acquisition of a 63.8% stake in Mail.Ru Group earlier this year – has finally launched its long-rumoured MVNO service. Dubbed VKmobile, the MVNO was initially expected to launch over the MegaFon network before the end of 2016.

Spanish telco Aire Networks, which operates MVNO services under the Ion Mobile brand, will begin migrating users from the Orange network to that of Movistar on 15 June, local website Xataka Movil reports. As part of the transition, Ion Mobile will start to operate as a Full MVNO, and also be able to offer end-users 4G LTE connectivity.

Oregon-based MVNO Consumer Cellular has signed up its two millionth customer, CEO John Marick has informed local news site, the Bend Bulletin. The executive noted that the subscriber figure represented more than twice the number of users that the virtual operator had signed up three years ago. Going forward, the company expects to reach revenues of USD1 billion in 2018. The growth strategy has seen the MVNO sign a second wholesale agreement – with T-Mobile US – to augment its existing deal with AT&T. In addition, Consumer Cellular, has formed a partnership with retail giant Target, which will act as a service centre for the virtual operator. Mr Marick commented: ’Last year was a difficult time for the industry as a whole, as it got super competitive.’ Consumer Cellular was formed in 1995 by Marick and CFO Greg Pryor, and targets its services at retirees.

Finally, Australian online retailer-turned-MVNO Kogan has signed an agreement with Vodafone Australia to use the latter’s network to launch fixed line broadband services in 2018. The new partnership extends the two companies’ existing mobile wholesale agreement (signed in October 2015) until 2022, with ‘significant incentives’ for both companies to continue the partnership thereafter, Kogan said. Kogan executive director David Shafer commented: ‘The launch of NBN services is a major opportunity for Kogan.com. With a brand that has built a reputation for price leadership through digital efficiency, a huge online audience, and a data-driven and analytical culture, Kogan.com is well poised to offer and grow a market-leading NBN service.’

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