MVNO Monday: MVNOs World Congress Special

3 Jun 2019

New UK MVNO Audacious took to the stage at the 18th annual MVNOs World Congress in Amsterdam last month to share details of its unique proposition. Audacious aims to provide clearer mobile calls to the roughly ten million people in the UK who suffer with mild, moderate or severe hearing loss, and expects to sign up 600,000 customers by 2023. The new technology underpinning the business has been created by leading audiologists and the MVNO itself will launch over the EE network later this summer. The dual presentation – helmed by Rob Shardlow, CEO of Audacious and Matthew Turner, CEO of technology partner Goshawk – was one of highlights of the programme for many attendees, and the new player expects to make a big splash in the ultra-competitive UK MVNO market.

Another new MVNO with big ideas is Mexico’s Miio, which seeks is to eradicate poverty by giving ‘unbanked’ mobile users access to basic credit savings. Salvador Abascal, co-founder, Miio, gave the assembled delegates a run-down on the MVNO’s core proposition, which includes free local remittances and interest-free micro-credit. Different tariff plans unlock different benefits meanwhile, including life insurance, doctor home visits, unlimited medical advice and dental care.

Also speaking at the event was Ben Teh, chief sales officer at Malaysia-based redONE. The Kuala Lumpur-based MVNO actually launched its new redONE Singapore unit while the conference was unfolding (22 May), but Mr Teh noted that this launch was just the tip of the iceberg for the group’s expansion plans. Next in line for redONE are Thailand and Vietnam in October this year, followed by the Philippines before year-end. By 2020 the company hopes to be operational in Cambodia, Laos and even Myanmar. The MVNO now has 1.15 million post-paid users in its domestic market, and it will be interesting to see if it attempts to replicate its Malaysian strategy in its new markets. The executive explained his company’s unique relationship with host Celcom as follows: redONE is prohibited from offering tariffs worth USD15 (per month) or higher and must compete at the budget end of the market, giving each company a clear playing field at that price range.

In other MVNO news, Giga, a new SIM-only mobile service targeting Millennials, has been launched in Singapore, as a sub-brand of mobile network operator (MNO) StarHub. It offers 25GB of data, 1,000 minutes of voice calls and 1,000 SMS for SGD25 (USD18.2) per month, with unused data rolled over for up to two months. However, the service is free for the first month to anyone who signs up before 18 June.

Officeworks, Australia’s largest supplier of office and stationery products, has entered the MVNO market via Accord Mobile. The MVNO utilises the Optus 4G network, which it says covers up to 95% of Australia. Meanwhile, under the Accord Connect banner, the company is also offering fixed broadband connectivity, this time over the National Broadband Network. Mobile plans start at just AUD15 (USD10.4) per month.

Sticking with Australia, amaysim has agreed a ‘revitalised’ wholesale network services agreement (NSA) with Optus which it says will support its strategy and growth ambitions. Under the revitalised NSA, which runs until 30 June 2022 (unless otherwise extended for another five years at amaysim’s sole discretion), amaysim will change the way it acquires data inclusions and network services from Optus. This will enable ‘rapid product deployment, the development of innovative new features and services and an even greater level of flexibility and competitiveness’.

Over in the US, the decision by Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman Ajit Pai to approve the long-running mega-merger between T-Mobile US and Sprint on the proviso that the enlarged operator spins off Sprint’s pre-paid unit, Boost Mobile, has triggered a flurry of interest in the MVNO sector.

According to Reuters, MVNO-turned-sub-brand Boost Mobile has been valued at USD3 billion, and the asset has already attracted the attentions of. Issa Asad, CEO of MVNO Q Link Wireless – a major provider of federally-subsidised Lifeline services. Mr Assad told the news agency that he would be prepared to pay between USD1.8 billion and USD3 billion for the business, depending on ‘the quality of Boost’s customers, such as their level of churn, the devices they are using, and what type of phone plan they are on’. Elsewhere, Stephen Stokols, CEO of fellow MVNO FreedomPop, said that he is advising a private equity firm on a rival bid for Boost, which could potentially be merged with his company if the transaction comes to fruition.

Meanwhile, according to a separate report from Reuters – citing unnamed sources – online retail giant is also said to considering a bid for Boost Mobile. Interestingly, the report notes that Amazon would also be interested in any wireless spectrum that could be divested, suggesting its ambitions are not restricted to the MVNO sector.

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Australia, Malaysia, Mexico, Singapore, United Kingdom, United States, Accord Mobile (with Officeworks), amaysim (incl. Vaya), Audacious (incl. Goshawk), Giga, Miio, redONE (Malaysia), redONE (Singapore), Virgin Mobile USA