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

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26 Feb 2018

Spanish supermarket chain Eroski has confirmed that it will exit the MVNO sector, and transfer its Eroski Movil user base to Vodafone Espana. The switchover will take effect on 31 March 2018, after which date customers can expect to experience an ‘equivalent or better’ level of service than they currently receive – including 4G LTE access for the first time. The retailer notes that its inability to compete as a converged service provider has necessitated its exit from the sector. Existing Eroski Movil customers are expected to be folded into Vodafone’s LOWI no-frills sub-brand.

Australia has a new MVNO in the form of Catch Connect, an offshoot of online retailer The virtual operator piggybacks on the Optus network. Catch Group CEO Nati Harpaz commented: ‘For launch, customers who purchase eligible plans will receive shopping vouchers that can be used to spend at – we call it CatchBack.’

Russian national operator Rostelecom ended 2017 with around 831,000 MVNO subscribers, after adding 261,000 new mobile customers in the fourth quarter of 2017, Vedomosti reports. The telco previously reported 670,120 subscribers at 30 September 2017, suggesting around 100,000 customer disconnections in 4Q17. A more comprehensive breakdown is anticipated when Rostelecom publishes its annual report on 6 March. According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, the MVNO launched in November 2016, over the network of Rostelecom’s 45%-owned subsidiary Tele2 Russia.

iD Mobile, the UK MVNO backed by Dixons Carphone, has launched ‘Wi-Fi Calling’ functionality for around 100,000 compatible customers. According to the MVNO’s website, the voice-over-Wi-Fi (VoWi-Fi) service comes out of a subscriber’s monthly allowance, and is restricted to domestic use only. iD Mobile head of operations Paul Walsh commented: ‘No network has 100% coverage and most of us have experienced a time where we’ve failed to get signal, whether that be a basement coffee shop or a room or two at home – this is where Wi-Fi Calling saves the day.’

Finally, Loxley Mobile, owner of Thailand’s i-Kool MVNO brand has insisted that it will remain operational, despite having fewer than 10,000 active subscribers after eight years of service. Suroj Lamsam, president of trading conglomerate Loxley PLC, told the Bangkok Post: ‘There are several pain points in providing mobile services under the MVNO model, as we struggle to compete with bigger rivals amid highly intense competition.’ Mr Suroj said that the ARPU per i-Kool user is THB170 (USD5.4) per month. Interestingly, the MVNO has a fully automated set-up, and has just two dedicated employees.

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Australia, Russia, Spain, Thailand, United Kingdom, Catch Connect, Eroski Movil, i-Kool (Loxley), iD Mobile, LOWI, Rostelecom, Vodafone Spain