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

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11 Sep 2017

UK full-service telco TalkTalk is exploring an exit from the mobile sector, after initiating talks with the likes of Vodafone UK, O2 UK and Virgin Media over the future of its long-running MVNO business. According to the Financial Times, the company is keen to return to its roots as a budget ISP, and will seek to transfer at least part of its existing mobile base to a rival. However, the situation is complicated by the overlap with its broadband users, with 12% of its user base signed up to quad-play packages, while a quarter of its broadband user base also take a mobile subscription. As previously reported by TeleGeography’s MVNO Monday, in May 2017 the telco scrapped plans to build its own UK mobile network utilising residential hotspots, in favour of maintaining its current MVNO agreement with O2 UK. TalkTalk first launched a mobile phone service in 2010, after signing a wholesale deal with Vodafone, before switching to the O2 network in 2016.

Iranian ISP Shatel formally launched the country’s first MVNO, Shatel Mobile, on 2 September, claiming coverage of 600 cities nationwide. During the launch ceremony, which took place at the National Library in Tehran, company founder and chairman of the board Mohammad Hassan Shanehsazzadeh confirmed that Shatel currently presides over a broadband user base of one million, which it seeks to target with the new MVNO.

Virgin Mobile Latin America has confirmed that it has sold its Virgin Mobile Peru unit to Inkacel. The development, which was first announced via a brief Facebook post, comes just 14 months after the MVNO launched its operations, over the Movistar network. According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, Virgin Mobile Peru claimed 89,139 subscribers as of 30 June 2017. According to local website Semana Economica, Inkacel is owned by InfoPyme of Spain, which is active within the public telephony sector. Carlos Paz, director of ultimate parent company Grupo Paz Salinas, told the site: ‘We learned that Virgin wanted to go, and that it was looking for someone to acquire the company with assets and liabilities. So we have acquired the company. Instead of reaching out, and establishing a negotiation with a network operator, we have acquired a company with all its contracts with the network operator and agreements with the Supervisory Agency for Private Investment in Telecommunications (Organismo Supervisor de Inversion Privada en Telecommuniciones, Osiptel).’ Virgin Mobile is likely to be rebranded in October, and the new owners expect to invest around USD3 million and USD5 million over the next two years.

Sticking with Peru, Osiptel has confirmed that it has approved the MVNO mandate agreed between corporate communications firm Dolphin Telecom and Entel Peru. The resolution, 093-2017-CD, was included in the official gazette in late August. Dolphin Telecom currently offers TETRA-based trunking services in Arequipa, Callao, Chincha, Ica, Lima, Nazca, Pisco and Talara.

Following this month’s launch of the first MVNO service in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) by Virgin Mobile, running on the network of Du, rival firm Etisalat has hit back by marketing a range of pre-paid plans under the brand Swyp, which is aimed at users in the 19-29 age bracket. The focus of the service is firmly on data, with a 5GB base plan costing AED50 (USD13.60) a month. With independent MVNOs not currently permitted under UAE legislation, the new Virgin Mobile operation is wholly owned by Du, and uses the Virgin brand under licence.

In Denmark, TDC Group has announced the acquisition of B2C MVNO Plenti. TDC will pay DKK74 million (USD12 million) for 100% of the virtual operator, which currently serves 90,000 mobile subscribers. TDC notes that it will seek to transfer the customers from the Hi3G Denmark (3) network onto its own infrastructure as soon as possible.

Brazil has a new MVNO in the form of Vecto Mobile. The M2M/IoT-focused provider has a wholesale agreement with regional operator Algar Telecom, but is likely to rely on roaming agreements elsewhere in the country. Vecto seeks to sign up 100,000 users by end-2017, and achieve 500,000 customers by 2018.

Australian MVNO amaysim has reported net revenues of AUD326.7 million (USD261.0 million) for the twelve months ended 30 June 2017, up 29% from AUD253.5 million one year earlier. EBITDA jumped 35% to AUD33.8 million, while gross profit climbed 16%, to AUD99.1 million. The company’s mobile user base increased 11% from 966,000 to 1.074 million by 30 June, while ARPU dropped 11% to AUD22.5.

South Africa’s First National Bank (FNB) has confirmed that its FNB Connect MVNO accounted for a total of 520,000 subscribers as of 30 June 2017, up from approximately 400,000 one year earlier. In announcing the bank’s financial results for the year ended 30 June, FNB CEO Jacques Celliers asserted that the mobile unit is ‘exceeding original expectations’. The MVNO launched in June 2015, over the Cell C network.

Armenian mobile operator U!com has announced that it has signed a cross-border roaming agreement with Russian MVNO Aiva Mobile, which is owned by long-distance operator Multiregional Transit Telecom (MTT). Known as ‘Universal Plus’, the service allows users to have two numbers (one for Russia, and one for Armenia) on a single SIM card, and seeks to capitalise on the fact that 70% of the Armenian cellco’s international calls terminate in Russia. The Russian Aiva Mobile MVNO has piggybacked on the Mobile TeleSystems (MTS) network since July 2014, and targets ethnic communities with ties to the former Soviet Union. In addition, the Aiva Tajikistan MVNO was launched in October 2014.

Finally, in an interview with the European Communications website, Allirajah Subaskaran, chairman and founder of Lycamobile Group, has reiterated the company’s plans to enter new markets, naming Turkey, Russia, Serbia, Cameroon and Mexico as his next wave of targets. The London-based MVNO giant expects to sign up 50 million customers by 2020.

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