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

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9 Apr 2018

Russian mobile giant Beeline, which is owned by VEON (formerly VimpelCom Group), has reportedly offloaded its majority stake in ethnic MVNO SIM Telecom (SIM SIM). The 50.2% stake has been held via holding company Eurus Holding since 2016, while it remains unclear if the shareholding has been sold to Beeline’s partners in the venture: Andrei Romanenko, a founder of regional payment system Qiwi, and his business partner Andrei Skopinsky. Going forward, local press sources have confirmed that SIM SIM will remain an ongoing concern, and continue to operate over the Beeline network. TeleGeography notes that SIM SIM launched in November 2014 over the Beeline network, and was relaunched in 2016 after the mobile operator acquired a majority stake in the MVNO, foregrounding its multilingual call centre as one of its key differentiators.

South African MVNO FNB Connect, which was launched in June 2015 over the Cell C network, passed the 600,000-subscriber milestone at end-December 2017, chief commercial officer Shadrack Palmer has informed Business Live. FNB Connect, which is linked to First National Bank’s eBucks rewards programme, offers voice and data-enabled SIM cards to the bank’s customers and sells its own and third-party mobile devices. Palmer noted that the division had sold about 100,000 FNB-branded ZTE smartphones to date. Going forward, the executive noted: ‘now the focus is on integrating [the MVNO] a lot more into our core banking value proposition’ to boost growth. As such, the bank plans to bundle FNB Connect SIM cards with all new cheque accounts later this year.

Finally, BT Group mobile sub-brand BT Mobile has confirmed that it has introduced Wi-Fi calling functionality for end-users. All iPhone models from the 5S onwards will be compatible, BT notes, including the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone SE, iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus, iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone X. Further, the Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+ (if bought from BT Mobile) will also work with Wi-Fi Calling. The service can be used anywhere in the UK where there is a Wi-Fi signal, and all calls or texts are charged as per a – customer’s BT Mobile plan. BT Mobile launched in March 2015 over the EE network, although parent BT Group went on to acquire the network host in a takeover deal completed in January 2016.

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Russia, South Africa, United Kingdom, Beeline (Russia), BT Mobile (MVNO), FNB Connect (South Africa), SIM Telecom (SIM SIM), VEON

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