MVNO Monday: MVNOs Europe Special

20 Nov 2017

Speaking at the MVNOs Europe conference in London last week, Chris Tooley, CEO of MVNO giant Lycamobile Group described the implementation of the European Commission’s (EC’s) ‘Roam Like at Home’ mandate as an ‘omnishambles’, arguing that while the proposition – which was formally introduced in June this year – is great from a consumer perspective but ‘MVNOs are caught in the middle’ and are struggling to recover wholesale costs. During a combative ‘Evaluating the Results of a Capped Europe’ panel – which also featured Agustin Diaz-Pines, a case handler for the EC, and representatives from a number of MNOs – Mr Tooley admitted that Lycamobile is in the midst of ‘robust discussions with regulators in a number of countries’ over its position, and observed that the rules have forced the group to switch from innovation to ‘defensive mode’. As such, Lycamobile has had to examine whether or not its packages are suitable for roaming, and increase its focus on its domestic markets.

On a more upbeat note, in a separate conference session, Tooley shared news regarding the group’s expansion plans, with India and Russia both namechecked as markets in which Lycamobile expects to launch in 2018, alongside a number of sub-Saharan African nations. He noted: ‘Our growth strategy is a survival strategy at the same time’. Going forward, the group expects to launch in 20 new markets in the next four years, and account for a total of 50 million subscribers by 2020.

Elsewhere, Arvind Balakrishnan, head of marketing for MVNE Plintron discussed one of the solution provider’s most recent MVNO launches – the introduction of church-affiliated GospelCel in Brazil. In September, the newcomer launched in just two weeks, using a platform supplied by Plintron. The executive added that his company is currently in the process of acquiring MVNO licences in markets where a concession is required in order to expand its MVNE business, including the likes of Austria and Mexico. Further, the vendor has been authorised to roll out physical radio networks in both India and Brazil, as it seeks to grow its business.

In other news, Filipino media giant ABS-CBN Corp, which operates an MVNO under the ABS-CBNmobile brand name has confirmed that it is reviewing its mobile business strategy ahead of the expiration of its wholesale agreement with Globe Telecom in June 2018. ABS-CBN chief financial officer Aldrin Cerrado told the Manila Standard that the company expects to trim the losses of its MVNO unit this year, from PHP600 million (USD11.8 million) in 2016, to PHP400 million. He noted that the MVNO is unlikely to break even next year, adding: ‘The direction is to have a mobile strategy in order to maximize the revenue potential of our content on as many platforms as possible, including the mobile platform. Globe is waiting for us to decide and we are awaiting the recommendation of the mobile team.’ The original wholesale deal with Globe was inked back in May 2013.

Sticking with Asia, Internet Initiative Japan (IIJ) has announced that it has signed up a total of 2.039 million MVNO subscribers as of 30 September 2017. Of that figure, 972,284 customers were attributed to the company’s IIJmio consumer brand, up from 874,852 one year earlier.

Colombia’s Superintendencia de Sociedadeshas reportedly granted Uff Movil permission to begin its reorganisation process, which the stricken MVNO hopes will allow it to avoid liquidation. As previously reported by MVNO Monday, crisis was narrowly averted in March this year when host network Tigo Colombia agreed not to cut off the MVNO’s service, despite substantial debts. Launched in November 2010, Uff Movil saw its user base peak at 529,834 in December 2014, before dwindling to 110,586 at end-June 2017 (most recent data).

Finally, Russian fixed broadband operator TransTeleCom (TTK), which is wholly owned by state railway firm Russian Railways, will extend its new MVNO service to Moscow in early 2018. ComNews reports that TTK introduced its MVNO business in Chelyabinsk region earlier this month, following launches in Krasnodar and Rostov in July. The Tele2-powered MVNO will chiefly target Russian Railways’ one million-strong employee base.

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Brazil, Colombia, India, Japan, Philippines, Russia, United Kingdom, ABS-CBNmobile (MVNO), GospelCel, IIJ Mobile, Lycamobile Group, Plintron, TransTeleCom (TTK), Uff Movil