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

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5 Mar 2018

China Mobile International (CMI) has announced plans to launch an MVNO in Russia in 2019. Company representative Lu Jing broke the news at Mobile World Congress (MWC) last month, at a press conference staged by Russian news daily Vedomosti. Australia, Canada and the US have also been named as target markets by CMI, which launched in the UK under the CMLink brand name in December 2017. Tele2 Russia – the country’s most active wholesaler – has already thrown its hat into the ring as a potential network host.

Belgian MVNO VOO mobile has enlisted Chinese vendor ZTE Corporation for the provision of a full virtualised mobile core and digital transformation services, as it transitions from a Light MVNO model to that of a Full MVNO. As previously reported by TeleGeography’s MVNO Monday, last month VOO agreed a new wholesale partnership with Telenet, which will see it switch to the network used by Telenet’s BASE subsidiary. Since 2013 VOO has piggybacked on the Orange Belgium network, but that deal is set to expire in December this year. The contract with Telenet/BASE runs until 31 December 2023.

Altice USA does not expect to launch its Sprint-powered MVNO until 2019, CEO Dexter Goei has informed investors during the company’s 4Q17 conference call. The executive is quoted by Seeking Alpha as saying: ‘We are commencing the core network development now, in 2018, with a commercial launch planned by 2019. This will be a new area of growth for us and we can leverage expertise in the Altice Group and how to position this to our customers within bundles to help reduce churn and drive ARPU.’

Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten, which has offered MVNO services through Rakuten Mobile since October 2014 via a wholesale deal with NTT DOCOMO, has submitted an application for cellular frequencies to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (MIC). The group plans to launch as a mobile network operator (MNO) as early as 2019. The MVNO business announced that it served 1.4 million subscribers in December 2017, shortly after sealing the takeover of Freetel in September that year.

Also in Japan, Marubeni Corporation, a multinational company with businesses in several sectors, including MVNO operations through its subsidiary Marubeni Wireless Communication, has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Nokia to develop, test and deliver IoT services to its enterprise customers. The trials will utilise the vendor’s Worldwide IoT Network Grid (WING) solution.

German B2B MVNO 1NCE, in partnership with its network host Telekom Deutschland, has introduced a ‘lifetime fee’ flat-rate data subscription model for IoT/M2M devices. In an offer valid across all EU countries plus Switzerland and Norway, EUR10 (USD12.2) buys a 500MB allowance for a ten-year service life of one smart device. 1NCE calls itself ‘the first dedicated Tier 1, Narrowband IoT MVNO providing fast, secure and reliable IoT network connectivity for low data B2B applications’. The operator notes that it also provides 2G and 3G connectivity, alongside NB-IoT access.

Sticking with Germany, a number of Telekom Deutschland sub-brands are expected to gain access to their parent company’s LTE network from this week. A report by local website claims that Congstar subscribers will receive 4G connectivity from 6 March, alongside sister companies Mobilcom-Debitel and Klarmobil.

Finally, Telenor-backed WorkingGroupTwo (WG2), a new business entity that seeks to offer mobile operators a cloud-based core network, is set for commercial launch. Swedish MVNO Vimla is the first commercial customer of the platform, which claims to enable faster and scalable service innovation through ‘making the mobile network programmable’.

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