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

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29 Apr 2019

Vietnam has witnessed the launch of its first MVNO, in the form of Indochina Telecom Company (Itelecom). Itelecom will utilise the VNPT network for connectivity and has been granted a number range with the ‘087’ prefix. In its initial phase of operation, the service will be made available to workers at industrial zones in nine provinces and cities: Ha Noi, Thai Nguyen, Vinh Phuc, Bac Giang, Bac Ninh, Binh Duong, Ho Chi Minh City, Long An and Dong Nai. TeleGeography notes that the operator had its MVNO licence revoked back in December 2012 after failing to progress to a commercial launch; it is unclear what has prompted the regulatory change of heart.

Sydney-based investment bank Macquarie Group is poised to launch an MVNO in Australia, under the name Nu Mobile. The new player, which will operate over the Telstra network, will specialise in combining mobile plans with pre-owned handsets, the Australian Financial Review reports. As per the article, Macquarie already leases more than a million smartphones to mobile retailers, which lease them on to customers. The terms of these leases require customers to return the phones after one or two years, meaning Macquarie already has a large number of used smartphones at its disposal. The Nu Mobile business will sit within Macquarie’s Corporate and Asset Finance business, the report notes. The product has been soft-launched for staff use only, ahead of a wider commercial unveiling.

Majan Telecommunications Company, which currently operates Omani MVNO Renna Mobile, has launched a second virtual operator in the Sultanate, in the form of Red Bull Mobile Oman. Like its predecessor, the newcomer will operate using a Class II licence. According to Red Bull’s website, SIM cards are currently available via retail units in five cities: Muscat, Buraimi, Batina, Sharqiyah and Salalah.

Neibo, which bills itself as ‘the first mobile phone cooperative in Belgium’, has inked a wholesale deal with Orange Belgium, which will allow it to launch MVNO services in September 2019. Neibo has chosen the cooperative model to allow it to exclusively allocate its profits to sustainable local businesses. Effortel will act as the mobile virtual network enabler (MVNE) for the start-up, which will also offer 4G connectivity from launch.

Over in Scandinavia, Ice Group has announced that its subsidiary Ice Communication Norge has closed its acquisition of domestic MVNO Komplett Mobil, as agreed on 18 March. Migration of the MVNO’s customers will start immediately and run until June 2019. Ice will pay Komplett Mobil approximately NOK105 million (USD12.1 million) for the customer base but has warned that this amount can increase or decrease depending on how many Komplett Mobil customers that remain customers of Ice following the migration process.

Comcast-backed MVNO Xfinity Mobile has reported net subscriber additions of 170,000 in 1Q19, to end the quarter with 1.405 million mobile customers. Comcast notes that the fledgling MVNO unit generated revenues of USD225 million in Q1 but posted a loss of USD103 million for the period under review.

DANYCOM, which launched MVNO services in Russia on 1 June 2018 over the Tele2 Russia network, has signed up 120,000 subscribers, ComNews reports. The virtual operator, which is currently operational in 35 Russian regions, aims to grow its user base to 600,000 by end-2019, by which time it expects to be operational in 69 regions.

Finally, Lebara Netherlands is planning to implement a rebranding exercise, which will see it target Millennials. The MVNO has hired advertising agency Natwerk and PR agency Lubbers De Jong to oversee the process, with Marijke de Laat, marketing director at Lebara Netherlands, commenting: ‘Lebara really wants to be there for its customers and to respond much more actively to their needs. Partly for this reason we are now opting for a new strategy with a strong focus on SIM-only subscriptions. We thereby build on our successful formula, and adjust our services to appeal to a young, broader clientele that expects boundless, transparent mobile telephony and internet services.’

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Australia, Belgium, Netherlands, Norway, Oman, Russia, United States, Vietnam, DANYCOM, Effortel, ice, Ice Group (formerly AINMT), Indochina Telecom (iTel), Komplett Mobile, Lebara Netherlands, Majan Telecommunication (Renna Mobile), Neibo, Nu Mobile, Red Bull MOBILE (Oman), Xfinity Mobile