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

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30 Apr 2018

US cable giant Comcast added 196,000 new subscribers to its Xfinity Mobile MVNO service during the first quarter of 2018, bringing its total customer base to 577,000 as of 31 March 2018. Fierce Wireless quotes Dave Watson, CEO of Comcast Cable, as saying: ‘I think we’re off to a really good start with mobile. But it just launched last May, and it is still early in terms of how we expand distribution. We are just now beginning to package mobile solutions with broadband.’ Comcast is set to spearhead the charge by cablecos entering the MVNO market; Charter is expected to launch its own Spectrum Mobile MVNO unit this summer, while Altice USA expects to enter the MVNO market in 2019.

Sticking with the US, America Movil (AM)-backed Tracfone has taken the atypical step of breaking out separate KPIs for its key brands in its 1Q18 reporting. The MVNO’s total user base dropped 8.0% year-on-year, to 22.761 million, with its SafeLink unit seeing its user base plummet 28.1% y-o-y to 3.694 million. SafeLink is one of a large number of ‘Lifeline’ programme-affiliated US MVNOs that have been hit hard by Federal Communications Commission (FCC) crackdowns in recent months. On a brighter note, the Straight Talk brand grew 2.9% on an annualised basis, to reach 9.041 million. Total revenues for 1Q18 grew 1.0%, topping USD2.0 billion.

Also in the US, a new MVNO has launched in the form of FreeUP Mobile, which seeks to offer subscribers a way to reduce their monthly bills via participation in rewards programmes. CEO Rod Nakjavani – who previously founded Simple Mobile – told Fierce Wireless: ‘We looked around the MVNOs and saw the opportunity for a cellular service with a tier-one network, bring your own device (BYOD), a SIM card and all that to be married to a rewards programme that allows subscribers to earn either by taking an action or spending money through our channels’. FreeUP’s network partner has not been disclosed.

Over in Taiwan, Line Corp, creator of the popular Line messaging app, has announced its entrance into Taiwan’s MVNO market under the Line Mobile banner. The new service will operate over the Far EasTone Telecommunications network. According to the Taipei Times, some 19 million Taiwanese currently use the Line app. TeleGeography notes that Line Mobile has previously launched in both Japan and Thailand.

In Australia, meanwhile, Optus Wholesale will host a brand new MVNO known as TravelSIM, a company that has provided Australian travellers with ‘affordable international roaming options’ for the last decade. ZDNet quotes Optus Wholesale MD Stuart Bird as saying: ‘TravelSIM is a truly successful Australian business, and we’re incredibly proud to be helping enable them to expand their services into a market they know well.’

Finally, Inkacel, the Peruvian MVNO formerly known as Virgin Mobile Peru, has reportedly been awarded a 20-year public telephony licence by the Ministry of Transport and Communications (Ministerio de Transportes y Comunicaciones, MTC). Inkacel is understood to be owned by InfoPyme of Spain, which is known to be active within the public telephony sector in its domestic market. The Spanish company acquired Virgin Mobile back in September 2017.

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