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

15 Jul 2019

Kuwait’s Communication and Information Technology Regulatory Authority (CITRA) has launched a tender for MVNO licences, as it seeks to provide local consumers with ‘greater innovation and diversity’ in terms of mobile options. Salim Al-Ozainah, chairman and CEO of CITRA, told the Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) that the watchdog ‘seeks to attract global virtual operators with experience which will revitalise the telecommunications market in line with their future plan and the aspirations of users’. Interested parties can contact the regulator to obtain an application document, which sets out the terms and conditions for the submission process, the conditions to be met, the timetable for the licensing process and the general framework of the MVNO agreement.

Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten Mobile has announced the JPY2.3 billion (USD21.2 million) takeover of domestic MVNO rival DMM Mobile, which is currently operated by diversified internet company DMM.com. The transaction, which will take effect on 1 September 2019, will also include fixed broadband unit DMM Hikari. As of 30 June 2019 the MVNO accounted for a total of 240,000 subscribers, while the ISP claimed 20,000 users. Both business units currently leverage wholesale agreements with NTT DOCOMO. TeleGeography notes that Rakuten Mobile began providing its own MVNO service in October 2014 and currently claims to be the largest MVNO in the Japanese market. Going forward, the company will launch its long-awaited MNO business in October 2019.

US MVNO Ting Mobile has signed a new wholesale contract, with mobile market leader Verizon Wireless. The agreement will take effect later this year, parent company Tucows has confirmed. Running in parallel, the MVNO has extended its network provision agreement with Sprint until September 2020. However, in a move that Tucows blames on the uncertainty surrounding the ongoing merger between Sprint and T-Mobile US, the company has opted to discontinue its wholesale agreement with T-Mobile, effective 19 December 2019. Elliot Noss, President and CEO of Tucows, wrote: ‘Our contract with Verizon is better than that with T-Mobile in terms of rates, guarantees and other financial terms, which had negatively impacted Ting Mobile’s past performance … We had expected that the proposed Sprint/T-Mobile merger would have been resolved by now. If that had happened, we would have been able to engage with the parties and assess the financial implications of potential post-merger relationships. However, because the merger has not occurred, we had to assess our relationships with Sprint and T-Mobile separately.’ Ting finished the first quarter of 2019 with 284,000 subscribers across 160,000 MVNO accounts.

Over in Mexico, the Federal Telecommunications Institute (Instituto Federal de Telecomunicaciones, IFT) has presented its annual analysis of the Mexican MVNO market, confirming that the country ended December 2018 with a total of 1.7 million MVNO subscribers. FreedomPop dominated the sector, accounting for 32% of all user accounts at year-end, comfortably ahead of Oui (19%) and Virgin Mobile Mexico (16%).

Finally, Telekom Deutschland sub-brand Congstar has celebrated its twelfth anniversary by revealing that it now has five million mobile and fixed users. Managing director Peter Opdemom said: ‘Five million customers are a great endorsement and an important milestone.’

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