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

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18 Sep 2017

Swiss investor Palmarium – through its subsidiary VIEO – has announced the acquisition of London-based international MVNO group Lebara, which operates in the UK, the Netherlands, Denmark, Spain, Germany, France and Saudi Arabia. Lebara currently serves 3.5 million subscribers, and sells SIM cards via 275,000 retail outlets. As part of the takeover the founders of Lebara are leaving the company, and the new leadership team will be led by Graeme Oxby, who previously worked for Three, Virgin Mobile and Liberty Global. The new CEO commented: ‘Lebara is a vibrant and exciting growth business with a great deal of potential. I’m excited to be at the helm, and believe this acquisition, combined with the strength of the new leadership team and its strong investors, will take this business to the next level.’

The disputed Senegalese MVNO licensing process will continue as planned, following an unsuccessful legal challenge by would-be licensee Starlog, the Authority for the Regulation of Public Procurement (l’Autorite de Regulation des Marches Publics, ARMP) has announced, after finding ‘no substantial breach’ in the awards process. In June this year the Authority for Regulation of Telecommunications and Posts (L’Autorite de Regulation des Telecommunications et des Postes, ARTP) granted three MVNO licences, to You Mobile, which is owned by international music star Youssou N’dour; Origines SA, which is backed by fellow musician El Hadj Ndiaye; and Sirius Africa, owned by Mbackiyou Faye. The wholesale contracts inked with Senegalese mobile network operators (MNOs) are valued as follows: You Mobile (Orange, XOF400 million [USD682,618]); Origines (Expresso, XOF300 million) and Sirius (Tigo, XOF300 million).

Over in Latin America, Peru’s Ministry of Transport and Communications (Ministerio de Transportes y Comunicaciones, MTC) has licensed a new MVNO in the form of Cuy Movil. Little is known about the new player, which is legally registered as Guinea Mobile, although it is believed to be locally owned. The MVNO is expected to launch by year-end.

Malaysian MVNO red ONE has disclosed plans to enter the Singaporean mobile market, with a launch earmarked for November this year. According to Danny Chin, chief marketing officer at red ONE, the move is in line with the company’s vision of becoming the largest MVNO in South East Asia. The MVNO, which piggybacks on the Celcom Axiata network, claims around one million subscribers today, compared to just 140,000 subscribers in 2012.

Sticking with South East Asia, Malaysia’s Tune Talk has teamed up with San Francisco-based Juvo to drive financial inclusion amongst its user base. The vendor’s ‘Pay Later’ service provides pre-paid users with access to progressive levels of financial services, starting with airtime loans. By using Juvo’s proprietary data science, subscribers can graduate to higher levels of credit based on top-up and repayment history, account information, and every day interaction. Launched in August 2009, Tune Talk currently claims to serve 1.5 million users.

Dutch ticketing services firm Tibbaa has reportedly launched an MVNO over the KPN network. Tibbaa will sell SIM-only plans in combination with its other services, with subscriptions starting at EUR7.99 (USD9.54). According to Dutch site Telecompaper, the company plans a loyalty system, whereby customers will receive perks such as quick entry at events, meet-and-greets with artists, VIP upgrades and discounts on tickets, drinks and other services.

Finally, Interop Technologies has been selected by San Diego-based MVNO EcoMobile to deploy its virtualised Rich Communications Services (RCS) solution to the virtual operator’s user base. EcoMobile claims that this early adoption makes it the first MVNO in the US to launch Universal Profile 1.0 RCS functionality. EcoMobile will also deploy Interop’s OTT MVNO solution, which includes telco-grade mobile voice and legacy messaging services over Wi-Fi and 4G networks.

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