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

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3 Dec 2018

Russian football giant Spartak Moscow launched its new Spartak Mobile MVNO on a trial basis on 1 December. According to local press reports, the new service will be tested by club employees, and is expected to go live on a commercial basis next Spring. Spartak Mobile will utilise the Beeline Russia network for connectivity. The new MVNO is reportedly owned by local businessmen Dmitry Makeev (47.5%), Arthur Mirza (30%) and Sergey Bazylev (22.5%), who have licensed the football club’s official branding.

Over in Spain, self-styled ‘freemium’ MVNO FreedomPop Espana will close down on 29 December, transferring its existing user base to fellow MVNO Parlem. Both virtual operators are understood to currently utilise the Yoigo network owned and operated by Grupo MASMOVIL for connectivity. FreedomPop Espana has been operational since July 2016.

Also in Spain, MovilDIA – the budget MVNO operated by discount supermarket chain DIA since 2007 – has reportedly switched network host from Orange Espana to Vodafone Spain, which has enabled it to add 4G connectivity to its proposition.

In Germany, Tchibo Mobilfunk – a 50/50 joint venture between Telefonica Deutschland and retailer Tchibo – reportedly ended 2017 with 1.245 million pre-paid subscribers at the end of 2017, down 7.6% year-on-year. According to an unconfirmed report by Telecompaper, which cites Germany’s Company Register, revenues for the year under review grew 7.5%, to EUR 65.1 million (USD73.7 million), while net profit increased 3.5% to EUR 961,000.

In the US, The People’s Operator USA (TPO USA) has shut down, and its customers have been migrated across to rival MVNO Ting. An introductory note published by Ting said: ‘As you will have heard, TPO is closing its North American mobile business. This isn’t quite the intro we’d hoped to have but we’re really glad you’re here. We’ve worked hard with the TPO team to make sure your migration over to Ting is as smooth and seamless as possible. Your phone number and TPO balance are safe on Ting. We’re also offering USD50 in Ting credit to get you started.’ Any customers who wish to move to an alternative provider must do so within 30 days of the 27 November announcement. As previously reported by MVNO Monday, Ting offered USD75 for each TPO USA customer, paying approximately USD700,000 for the customer base. Ting has previously snapped up subscribers from defunct MVNOs such as RingPlus, Roam Mobility and PTel Mobile.

Sticking with the US, internet giant Google has confirmed that its Project Fi ‘Wi-Fi-first’ MVNO has been rebranded as Google Fi, as was previously rumoured. Cellular connectivity has been supported by Sprint and T-Mobile US from its launch in April 2015, while wholesale access from US Cellular was added to the Project Fi proposition in June 2016.

Finally, Telekom Srbija (which operates under the MTS brand) is looking to expand its international footprint, with plans to expand its services to the Serbian diaspora, the group’s head of internet and multimedia, Vladimir Lucic, said in an interview with Politika. The company already operates an MVNO in Austria, m:tel Austria, and has now set its sights on introducing virtual services in Germany, Switzerland, the US and Canada.

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