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

10 Jun 2019

Los Angeles-based STS Media has agreed a deal to sell its US MVNO subsidiary FreedomPop to fellow virtual operator Red Pocket Mobile. Stephen Stokols, CEO and chairman of STS Media, commented: ‘We feel that Red Pocket was the best company to grow the FreedomPop brand and consumer experience for our existing users.’ Interestingly, the press release notes that STS divested all Sprint-based subscribers to a third party in a separate and unrelated transaction last month. Transaction details of that deal are undisclosed. As such, the Red Pocket acquisition includes all remaining aspects of FreedomPop’s retail business (i.e. GSM subscribers using the AT&T Mobility network). TeleGeography notes that FreedomPop launched over the Sprint network in 2013 and added connectivity from AT&T in December 2016. Red Pocket launched in 2006 and leverages the networks of all four nationwide operators.

In a parallel report, Reuters claims that the sale is a precursor to STS Media lodging a bid for Boost Mobile, the pre-paid sub-brand owned and operated by Sprint Corp. A source with knowledge of the matter told the news agency that the value of the FreedomPop-Red Pocket transaction is ‘in the high eight figures’ (i.e. less than USD100 million). In contrast, Boost Mobile is valued at around USD3 billion. Boost is up for sale as part of concessions offered by Sprint and T-Mobile US to get their USD26 billion merger approved by the Department of Justice (DoJ). FreedomPop CEO Stokols has previously admitted that he was staging discussions with a private equity group about an acquisition of Boost, which he planned to merge with FreedomPop, although that aspect of the plan now appears to have been abandoned.

In another announcement which is likely to be of interest to the US MVNO sector, Virginia-based RAZ Mobility, which describes itself as ‘a provider of mobile assistive technology’, has launched its Lucia phone, an unlocked 3G device which is designed to help visually impaired and hard-of-hearing consumers. While the company does not refer to itself as an MVNO, it stresses that it is compatible with GSM providers T-Mobile US and AT&T Mobility, and the MVNOs which use those networks. Further, the company’s website features branding that is strongly reminiscent of T-Mobile’s logo, suggesting a potential collaboration between the two companies. An unlocked 4G phone will be made available in the future, the company adds.

Lausanne-based Citycable has confirmed that it entered the Swiss MVNO market on 3 June, although the full-service provider has not disclosed the identity of its network partner. Citycable, which offers its services via a combination of cable and fibre-optic technology, currently claims to deliver services to 60,000 pay-TV customers, 26,000 broadband users and 13,000 landline subscribers.

Elsewhere in Europe, new Spanish MVNO Lobster has enlisted UK-based Cerillion to implement its Enterprise BSS/OSS product suite, with a view to providing a digital-first experience for customers. Included in the expat-focused newcomer’s proposition is the ability for subscribers to ‘park’ their service for up to twelve months whilst retaining their account and phone number. Lobster is the registered brand of Zinnia Telecomunicaciones, a Spanish company and part of Gibraltar’s Gibtelecom Group. Jansen Reyes, technology director at Gibtelecom, commented: ‘By working with Cerillion as our trusted partner we have been able to launch our new business with the minimum of fuss, in line with the Lobster DNA – English, easy and effortless.’

Finally, mobile virtual network enabler (MVNE) Effortel has launched its Effortel Mobile Suite (EMS) platform, ‘a fully automated system that is designed to drive greater usage of mobile services through highly-targeted and timely promotions’. Effortel notes that the solution has already been adopted by three MVNOs and is being deployed by two international banks to support their MVNO deployments. Effortel currently manages close to five million subscribers across the eleven MVNOs using its platform.

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Spain, Switzerland, United States, Cerillion Technologies, Citycable (Switzerland), Effortel, FreedomPop, Lobster, RAZ Mobility, Red Pocket Mobile (US), Virgin Mobile USA