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

14 May 2018

Virgin Mobile Latin America (VMLA) has reportedly signed a contract with investment bank BTG Pactual to sell its operations in Colombia, Chile and Mexico. According to Chilean news site Diario Financiero, the businesses are valued at a combined USD300 million. The report adds that regional network host Telefonica displayed an initial interest in acquiring the MVNOs, but no concrete progress was achieved. As previously reported by MVNO Monday, InfoPyme of Spain acquired Virgin Mobile Peru back in September 2017, and rebranded it Inkacel. VMLA is also in possession of as-yet unused MVNO concessions in Argentina, Brazil and Ecuador.

Elsewhere, sister company Virgin Mobile Middle East & Africa (VMMEA) has announced that it has successfully closed a USD30 million pre-IPO exchangeable sukuk (Islamic bond). The senior secured sukuk certificates are structured based on Shariah principles. In the event of an IPO, the certificates will transfer into an exchangeable sukuk, maturing two years from the IPO date, the Dubai-based company said in a statement. VMMEA adds that the funding will be used to support its expansion in the region. Alan Gow, CEO of VMMEA, said: ‘We are delighted to raise this funding to support the continued growth and expansion of the Company in the Middle East and North African markets. The telecom sector in the region remains an attractive sector and as the company has demonstrated in its existing markets, we are uniquely positioned to leverage the MVNO model to deliver growth and financial performance in new markets.’

Over in the US, Charter Communications is expected to launch its eagerly anticipated Spectrum Mobile MVNO on 30 June. The date was disclosed by news site DSL Reports, citing an unnamed source close to the product launch. The report noted that Charter will seek to emulate the competitive pricing strategy utilised by Comcast-backed Xfinity Mobile, which also piggybacks on the Verizon Wireless network.

Sticking with the US, a new MVNO has launched in the form of Denver-based Visible. The online-only, youth-oriented newcomer, which offers a single USD40 flat-rate subscription, operates using the nationwide Verizon Wireless network. According to the Denver Post, Visible CEO Miguel Quiroga has worked for Verizon since 2000, most recently as its vice president and head of digital, and the new operator is being bankrolled by the wireless giant. Beth Veen, Visible’s Brand Strategy Lead, told the newspaper: ‘We operate independently and do things differently in the phone service category’.

Singaporean ISP MyRepublic has announced it will partner with local mobile operator StarHub to launch its long-awaited MVNO service. Managing director Yap Yong Teck commented: ‘MyRepublic has resonated with Singapore’s younger, more tech-savvy crowd and that is where we will continue [to] focus with our mobility services’.

Staying with Asia, Thai MVNO The White Space Co, which trades as Penguin SIM, has informed the Bangkok Post that it currently presides over a user base of 300,000 active subscribers. As per the article, the company is aiming for the business to turn a profit by the first quarter of 2019, and plans to list on the Market for Alternative Investment by 2020. Chaiyod Chirabowornkul, chief executive of White Space, noted that 80% of Penguin’s subscribers are in the provinces and 20% are in Bangkok, a ratio the company expects to maintain going forward. Of the 300,000 subscribers, 85% are said to be data users and 15% use voice services. The company relies on an 18,000-strong distribution network to distribute its SIM cards across the country, the executive added.

Finally, China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) has issued a notice officially shifting the mobile communication resale business from the pilot stage to full commercial status. The document details the process for would-be MVNOs to secure a new operating licence. Notably, resellers must first secure a contract with one or more mobile network operators (MNOs) before submitting their application to the regulator. The 42 MVNOs that participated in the government’s virtual operator pilot phase may apply to upgrade their initial concession to a full licence, or can opt to withdraw from the sector altogether. The MIIT initially opened the mobile market to MVNOs on a trial basis in December 2013, intending to test their viability for a two-year period, though this was subsequently extended, and by the end of 2017 there were more than 60 million Chinese subscribers signed up to MVNO services.

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