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

10 Sep 2018

FreedomPop’s UNREAL Mobile sub-brand has struck a new wholesale deal with AT&T Mobility as it seeks to add GSM access for customers. UNREAL Mobile launched in June this year over the Sprint CDMA network, but the latter platform constrained the number of devices that were compatible with the new service – prompting the newcomer to change tack. The rapid launch of UNREAL Mobile was conceived as a response to concerns over the ongoing merger between Sprint and T-Mobile US; the company’s management believed they could secure more favourable wholesale terms as Sprint sought to play-down competition fears. Samantha Lewe, UNREAL Mobile general manager, commented: ‘We have had over 50,000 people bring their existing phone to UNREAL Mobile, but until today, only certain Sprint devices worked and most of those devices did not qualify. That put us in the unfortunate position of having to turn customers away.’

Sticking with the US, T-Mobile executives have promised that – if the company successfully merges with Sprint – the combined company will not eliminate any of its well-known pre-paid brands. The admission was made in response to questions from personnel at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). T-Mobile currently operates the MetroPCS pre-paid brand, while Sprint operates the Boost and Virgin Mobile brands. T-Mobile, which previously reached out to MVNOs in an effort to get them to back its merger play, has stressed that the enlarged company will continue to encourage MVNOs to use its network.

US cable giant Charter Communications – which trades as Spectrum – has confirmed the ‘full market launch’ of its Spectrum Mobile MVNO, following a successful soft-launch earlier this summer. A press release issued by the cableco notes that the service is now available ‘for new and existing Spectrum Internet subscribers across its footprint,’ suggesting it is no longer restricted to active broadband customers. The MVNO utilises the Verizon Wireless network, as well as leveraging Charter’s 500,000-strong Wi-Fi hotspot network.

Over in Colombia, new mobile virtual network aggregator (MVNA) Suma Movil has confirmed that it has inked deals with four prospective MVNOs, which it will help to launch over the TigoUne network. Suma Movil manager Miguel Giraldo told La Republica that the companies in question include recharge specialist Conectame, pay-TV firm Comunicamos Mas and international long-distance (ILD) provider SIP Movil. The fourth would-be MVNO cannot be disclosed due to a confidentiality agreement, however.

Finally, the New Zealand Commerce Commission has initiated a study of the country’s mobile market, which includes a particular focus on ‘entry and expansion conditions and regulatory settings’ affecting the MVNO market. The watchdog admits that the virtual sector ‘has remained relatively limited’ since its inception – and is seeking feedback to improve market conditions. It names the country’s most notable MVNOs as Compass Communications, Vocus and Warehouse Mobile, although TeleGeography notes that all three players are dominated by Spark discount sub-brand Skinny Mobile, underlining the market imbalance.

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