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

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19 Mar 2018

Namibia is set to become the latest African market to introduce MVNOs, news daily The Namibian reports. Telecom Namibia is said to be in the process of finalising plans to host virtual operators on its 3G and LTE networks, and will initially extend wholesale access to local ISP MTN Business Namibia and long-term licence holder Demshi Investment Holdings. Theo Klein, Telecom’s managing director, said that a number of licensees have approached the telco to host them, noting: ‘We are working on this model to ensure that we make our network available to other, smaller telecommunication licence holders. We, however, want to ensure that the model will be in line with regulations’. Werner Shilunga, Demshi Investment Holdings’ owner, told the newspaper that Demshi has been in discussions with Telecom for close to three years, and expects to achieve a commercial launch within six months, using the ‘082’ prefix.

Russian MVNO VKmobile is going to be shut down due to disappointing take-up, despite only launching in July 2017. VKmobile was integrated with online social media network VKontakte, itself indirectly owned by MegaFon via its 63.8% stake in Group. Commercial director Vlad Wolfson was quoted by TelecomDaily explaining that ‘as a standalone brand, this MVNO operator did not live up to our expectations. It became clear that VKmobile will not develop at the rate we want.’

Also in Russia, online financial services provider Tinkoff Bank plans to invest RUB1 billion (USD17.5 million) in its MVNO Tinkoff Mobile by the end of 2019, as it seeks to grow its business. The figure was disclosed to TelecomDaily by Ilya Pisemskiy, the bank’s financial director. Tinkoff Mobile was launched in December 2017 as a Full MVNO, and operates over the Tele2 Russia network.

Sticking with eastern Europe, Poland has a new MVNO in the form of Lodz-based Otvarta, which has positioned itself as a patriotic, Polish-owned company. The virtual operator’s website asserts: ‘We know how you live and it is not easy. You need a good, cheap subscription … We give work to your neighbours and pay taxes in Poland. Because of these taxes, roads are built in your city, pavements, playgrounds and schools. By choosing Otvarta, you support the Polish economy.’ The MVNO piggybacks on the network of locally-owned Plus, rather than using one of the country’s internationally-owned MNOs.

Over in Canada, Bell has extended its ‘budget-conscious’ Lucky Mobile pre-paid band to residents of Manitoba and Saskatchewan, following its launch in Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia in December last year. Lucky Mobile SIM cards can be purchased in branches of Walmart, Wireless Wave, TBooth Wireless, Wireless etc and Visions Electronics.

French MVNO group Euro Information Telecom (EI Telecom), which is majority-owned by French bank Credit Mutuel-CIC, has announced the acquisition of local mobile virtual network enabler (MVNE) Sisteer. EI Telecom operates a number of French MVNOs, including Auchan Telecom, NRJ Mobile, CIC Mobile and Credit Mutuel Mobile.

Finally, Spanish MVNO Digi Mobil, which is owned by Romanian cable group Romania Cable Systems (RCS&RDS), has reportedly signed an agreement with network partner Telefonica Espana (Movistar) to gain wholesale access to its fibre-optic network. The virtual operator, which targets the Romanian population in Spain, claimed 896,000 subscribers at end-December 2017.

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Canada, France, Namibia, Poland, Russia, Spain, Bouygues Telecom Business-Distribution (incl. NRJ, Auchan), DIGI Mobil (Spain), Lucky Mobile, MTN Business (Namibia), Otvarta, Sisteer (France), Telecom Namibia (incl. TN Mobile), Tinkoff Mobile, VKmobile

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