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

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23 Apr 2018

Lycamobile Hong Kong (now renamed Zaritelcom) has notified the Office of the Communications Authority (OFCA) that it will cease to provide MVNO services with effect from 27 April 2018. On 6 April Lycamobile temporarily suspended its services in Hong Kong before partially restoring service, but on 18 April it disclosed to OFCA and its users that it will permanently cease operations. The company is sending an SMS to all active Hong Kong customers advising them to port out their mobile numbers to other mobile service providers at no charge within a period of three months from 27 April. The operator’s ‘Notice of Service Cessation’ to Hong Kong customers on 18 April said that it was ‘no longer able to continue to provide any network services (including mobile virtual network services and external telecommunications services)’, whilst a notice was sent to all its direct and indirect sales partners to cease selling, marketing and advertising its services.

UK satellite TV/broadband provider Sky has confirmed that its Sky Mobile MVNO grew its customer base to 437,000 by 31 March 2018, up from 335,000 at end-December 2017 and 205,000 in September 2017. Previously, Sky reported 97,000 MVNO subscribers at 30 June 2017, up from 23,000 at 31 March. The company’s SIM-only offer went live in January 2017.

Austria has a new MVNO in the form of Tchibo Mobil. The newcomer – which has been launched by Mass Response – operates over the Drei network, and leverages the branding of the popular Tchibo coffee shop chain. The new Austrian virtual operator follows in the footsteps of its German counterpart. In October 2004 Telefonica Deutschland launched a 50/50 MVNO venture with retailer Tchibo, initially on a pre-paid basis. A post-paid Tchibo Mobil package was introduced in the last quarter of 2005.

Over in Spain, Telefonica Espana (Movistar) is understood to be preparing to launch a new low-cost MVNO brand to counter the rise of rival Grupo MASMOVIL and its MVNO subsidiaries. According to El Confidencial, which cites sources with knowledge of the matter, the new brand will be headed by the newly-recruited Pedro Serrahima, the founder and former CEO of Spanish MVNO Pepephone, which is now owned by MASMOVIL.

Finally, US cable giants Comcast and Charter have formed a 50/50 operating platform partnership focused on the development and design of back-end systems that support Comcast’s Xfinity Mobile and Charter’s Spectrum Mobile MVNO services. The new partnership is the result of the continuing collaboration between Comcast and Charter in the mobile space, as each company continues to develop their respective mobile brands, products and services. Through the agreement, Charter and Comcast say that they will work together to cost-effectively develop an efficient and scalable software platform, and related back-end systems, which will power each company’s mobile-related customer sales and support platforms, device logistics and warehousing, and billing. The operating platform developed by the partnership will serve as the systems interface for all current and future MVNO partners.

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