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

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16 Apr 2018

The Nepal Telecommunications Authority (NTA) has prepared a draft of its ‘MVNO Directive’ and is poised to send it to the Cabinet for approval, thereby paving the way for virtual operators to enter the country’s mobile market. Min Prasad Aryal, deputy director at the NTA, told the Himalayan Times: ‘[The] presence of MVNOs will intensify competition in the telecommunications sector and increase people’s access to telecommunication services.’

Optus is preparing to close its Virgin Mobile Australia sub-brand, and migrate all Virgin subscribers across to its central brand, The Australian reports. The article suggests that the move is designed to eliminate the payment of branding fees that Optus makes to Virgin Mobile, thus reducing costs. An Optus spokesperson commented: ‘While we don’t have any changes to announce today, if there are changes, our priority is to speak directly with our employees first, and anyone who might be affected by any proposed changes.’ According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, Virgin Mobile Australia was officially established in June 2000 as a joint venture (JV) between UK-based Virgin Group and Australian mobile network operator Optus, before going on to launch commercial services as a MVNO over the latter’s network in October that year. In January 2006 Optus acquired the 74.15% stake it did not already own from Virgin Group for AUD30 million (USD23.3 million), securing a 15-year branding agreement in the process.

Norwegian electricity provider Fjordkraft, which began offering MVNO services over the Telenor Norge network in April 2017, has announced that it has passed the 50,000 customer milestone. CEO Rolf Barmen commented: ‘We entered this market as an independent challenger to Telia and Telenor, with cheap mobile telephony and extra low prices for our electricity customers. This proves that our offer hit its mark. With two virtually omnipresent players, the mobile telephony market was ripe for competition … Fjordkraft is a well-known and highly visible brand and we have a large and skilled customer centre. Becoming a mobile telephony operator was thus just a short step away.’

The utility provider, which is owned by BKK, Skagerak and Statkraft, notes that it recently received approval from the Norwegian Competition Authority and the Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate to acquire TronderEnergi, which will increase its addressable customer base to around 1.3 million.

Over in Latin America, Virgin Mobile Mexico has indicated that it is keen to renegotiate its exclusive wholesale contract with network host Movistar Mexico to allow it to make use of the recently launched Red Compartida open-access 700MHz network. CEO Steve Logue told Expansion.mx: ‘I need to change that exclusivity clause to create something with Red Compartida. The [Movistar] contract expires in 2018, but I do not want to replace Movistar, only complement it.’ The wholesale network – which has exclusive access to a 90MHz block of spectrum in the 700MHz band – went live last month, covering 32.2% of the population. The executive also noted that Virgin is gaining traction with its digitalisation strategy, observing: ‘When I started, last June, 1% of our sales were online. Now, it is 25%. In terms of customer service, 20% of the service was through digital channels and social networks. Now, it is 40%. We also had a mix of media – and now we use 100% online advertising. Every day we are restructuring and transforming the company: that is a digital transformation. For us, it is mandatory. It is the route to reach viability.’

Sticking with Latin America, Brazilian evangelical church Igreja Sara Nossa Terra has launched a new MVNO called Mais Parceiros de Deus. The MVNO uses Vivo’s 4G mobile network. The newcomer will seek to target the church’s 1.3 million-strong membership, and follows in the footsteps of fellow evangelical MVNO Mais AD, which launched in October 2015, also over the Vivo network.

Kenyan MVNO Equitel ended December 2017 with a total of 1.930 million subscribers, the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) has confirmed. Equitel, which launched back in October 2014, specialises in mobile financial services (MFS) and targets customers of parent company, Equity Bank. Kenya’s other two MVNOs continue to struggle, meanwhile; Mobile Pay ended 2017 with 89,892 subscribers, while SEMA Mobile mustered just 112 users.

Finally, Russian MVNO Tinkoff Mobile, a subsidiary of online banking giant Tinkoff Bank, has started developing its own retail chain, Vedomosti reports. As such, the company has opened its first eleven retail outlets in large shopping centres located in Moscow and St Petersburg. Tinkoff Mobile was launched in December 2017 as a Full MVNO, and operates over the Tele2 Russia network.

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