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

24 Jun 2019

izi, Kazakhstan’s first MVNO, has confirmed that beta testing is now underway in Almaty – the country’s largest city. Pitched as a ‘digital mobile operator’, the online-only newcomer will piggyback on the Beeline network. The MVNO allows users to build their own tariffs, and claims that unused voice, SMS and data allowances can be rolled over indefinitely. While nationwide LTE/LTE-A coverage is supported, the same-day delivery service is only available in Almaty.

Singapore-based MVNO Circles.Life has announced that its service has gone live in Taiwan from today (24 June). According to the Business Times, Circles.Life Taiwan will offer an app-based, no-contract plan that includes a monthly data allowance of 18GB. The identity of the newcomer’s network partner has not been disclosed, however. Going forward, co-founder Abhishek Gupta has indicated that Circles.Life will launch in Australia and Indonesia in 2019, describing the Taiwanese launch as ‘just the start of our ambitions globally’.

Puerto Rican MVNO Life Wireless has announced that it switched to the Claro Puerto Rico network on 19 June 2019, thus ending its seven-year association with AT&T. Life Wireless has been operating in Puerto Rico since February 2012 and is supported by the Federal Lifeline programme, which provides a subsidised cellular service for eligible low-income individuals and their families. Outside of Puerto Rico, Life Wireless is operational in 31 states and the US Virgin Islands. The MVNO is expected to continue to piggyback on the AT&T network in these markets. Jim Carpenter, the President of Life Wireless, commented: ‘As the largest Lifeline provider on the island it’s important we partner with the best and, clearly, that’s Claro. We proudly serve the most-needy in Puerto Rico, and they will now enjoy greater service as a result of this partnership.’

Over in Brazil, M2M-focused MVNO Datora Mobile Telecomunicacoes (trading as ARQIA) has reportedly signed contracts to act as a mobile virtual network enabler (MVNE) for two regional operators. MobileTime names the MVNOs in question as Varginha-based FoneLight and Fortaleza-based Um Telecom. ARQIA, which uses the TIM Brasil network for connectivity, hopes to sign up at least five regional ISPs by year-end, executive director Eduardo Resende noted.

VOXI, the Vodafone UK sub-brand that was launched in September 2017, has informed British news site 5G.co.uk that it intends to launch 5G services before end-2019. A spokesperson told the website: ‘VOXI customers will be able to enjoy the benefits of 5G later this year, along with a range of 5G devices.’ The UK parent company had previously declared that it would activate its 5G network in Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow, Manchester, Liverpool and London on 5 July.

Sticking with the UK, Telecom Plus PLC (trading as the Utility Warehouse), which supplies a wide range of utility services (gas, electricity, fixed line telephony, mobile telephony and broadband) to both residential and business customers, has reported that its MVNO user base reached 252,206 at 31 March 2019, up from 221,716 one year earlier. As at 31 March, electricity customers continued to account for the lion’s share of the company’s end-users (579,603), ahead of gas (470,227), fixed telephony (338,439) and broadband (304,678). The MVNO currently operates over the EE network.

Swiss telecoms retailer mobilezone has concluded its 100% takeover of German firm SH Telekommunikation Deutschland (Sparhandy), as agreed in May 2019. Alongside its core retail business, Sparhandy operates an MVNO over the Telekom Deutschland network. The virtual operator – branded High Mobile currently has 50,000 subscribers. The purchase price consists of three components: a basic purchase price in cash; an equity component comprising 4.5 million mobilezone shares; and an additional earn-out component of EUR3 million (USD3.4 million).

Australia’s Vocus Group – which operates MVNOs in its domestic market and New Zealand – announced that AGL Energy withdrew its takeover bid for the telco on 17 June. The unsolicited proposal offered AUD4.85 (USD3.33) per share in cash for the entire company. The withdrawn proposal represents the second abandoned bid for Vocus in less than a month; Sweden’s EQT Infrastructure called off talks on 4 June, after tabling an AUD5.25 per share cash bid. Kevin Russell, CEO of Vocus, commented: ‘As we have repeatedly said, this is a three-year turnaround. We have great confidence that our strategy and ability to execute our business plan will deliver significant value to our shareholders in the medium to long term. There is growing demand for our strategically valuable network assets and we have a substantial opportunity for Vocus Networks to gain market share.’

Finally, Telefonica Espana (Movistar) has sealed a deal with travel firm Globalia, which will sell SIM cards belonging to its O2 Espana sub-brand in travel agencies across Spain. Retail outlets stocking the SIM cards will include 605 Halcon Viajes branches and 165 Viajes Ecuador stores. The telco hopes that the move will appeal to consumers who prefer face-to-face interactions to online transactions. O2 Espana was launched by its parent company in June 2018, and is headed by Pedro Serrahima, the founder and former CEO of domestic MVNO Pepephone.

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