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

18 Feb 2019

Singaporean MVNO Circles.Life has confirmed plans to enter five new markets in the Asia-Pacific region within the next 18 months, including Taiwan (2Q19) and Australia (3Q19). The strategy was unveiled after the MVNO closed a Series C funding round led by Sequoia India. Abhishek Gupta, co-founder of Circles.Life, informed the media that the company will invest more than USD50 million in each of its new market launches, noting that this figure could change, depending on market conditions.

Cause-based British MVNO The People’s Operator UK (TPO UK) has announced that it has entered administration and will cease trading from 26 February 2019. In an effort to ‘minimise disruption’ for its customers, TPO has negotiated a preferential deal with SMARTY, the SIM-only sub-brand owned by Three UK. As previously reported by MVNO Monday, sister company The People’s Operator USA (TPO USA) shut down on 27 November 2018, and its customers were migrated across to rival MVNO Ting. TPO UK launched in 2012 using the EE network to deliver voice, text and data services to customers, before switching to Three in 2016.

Peruvian MVNO licensee Dolphin Telecom will launch in April this year, three years after first receiving approval from the Ministry of Transport and Communications (Ministerio de Transportes y Comunicaciones, MTC). In an interview with El Comercio, general manager Javier Sanchez confirmed that the new player will utilise the Bitel network for connectivity. Dolphin will operate as a Full MVNO, following the USD100 million deployment of its own network core. The company hopes to sign up 100,000 subscribers within its first year of service. The company currently offers TETRA-based trunking services in Arequipa, Callao, Chincha, Ica, Lima, Nazca, Pisco and Talara, but has lined up financial backers ahead of a planned MVNO launch.

Norway’s Chilimobil has signed a new wholesale agreement with Telia Norge, which will run for a further two years. The contract is valued at NOK500 million (USD57.8 million), CEO Lars Ryen Mill told Dagens Naeringsliv. Chilimobil ended 2018 with 47,000 MVNO customers, up from just 9,000 year-on-year. The company hopes to end 2019 with around 80,000 subscribers, Ryen Mill has stated. The company originally launched over the Telenor Norge network in April 2012, before relaunching over the Telia network in March 2017.

Finally, Netherlands-based youth-oriented MVNO Choozze (owned by SpeakUp), which launched over the T-Mobile network in August 2014, shut down on 31 January 2019. The virtual operator scrapped its original ‘freemium’ business model in 1Q16 and ceased new user activation in December 2017 but continued serving existing customers until last month.

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Australia, Netherlands, Norway, Peru, Singapore, Taiwan, United Kingdom, Chilimobil, Choozze, Circles.Life, Dolphin Telecom (Peru), SMARTY, The People’s Operator (TPO - UK)