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

16 Sep 2019

Singaporean MVNO Circles.Life launched in Australia on Friday 13 September, using the Optus network. The launch represents the virtual operator’s second overseas launch, after its service went live in Taiwan on 24 June this year. According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, Circles.Life entered the Singaporean mobile market in May 2016 and ranked as the city-state’s largest MVNO by subscribers as of 30 June 2019.

Bondholders of Dutch holding company VIEO – which operates international MVNO group Lebara – have seized control of the company via a ‘contested, coercive share pledge enforcement’, the Global Legal Chronicle has reported. As a result, VIEO’s shares have been transferred to a Newco entirely controlled by holders of the senior secured notes, which are valued at EUR350 million (USD386.1 million). The Bonds were governed by Norwegian law, and the relevant share pledge is governed by Dutch law. TeleGeography notes that the intervention follows a series of financial reporting errors and breaches of debt terms from VIEO’s owner, Switzerland’s Palmarium. The latter acquired Lebara back in September 2017.

Data On Tap Inc. has announced that it has taken another step towards launching a Full MVNO in Canada under the dotmobile brand name by successfully registering with the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC). As per Telecom Decision CRTC 2015-496, within the next 365 days the watchdog requires the newcomer to confirm the deployment of a core network solution; confirm its ability to handle customer billing and provisioning; and ink a wholesale agreement with a mobile network operator (MNO). Algis Akstinas, CEO of dotmobile, commented: ‘We decided early on to be a Full MVNO – to deploy our own cloud core infrastructure because of its scalability, flexibility, modern capabilities, and ability to offer differentiated service. Today we are one step closer to launching affordable and awesome wireless service’. TeleGeography notes that Canada’s three national MNOs – Rogers, Telus and Bell – are keen to attract a broader range of subscribers via their own sub-brands (or ‘flanker brands’) but have been more reticent where it comes to opening their networks to independent MVNOs. As such, no Full MVNOs are currently active in Canada.

Over in Russia, VTB – the banking group which is in the process of selling its stake in Tele2 Russia to Rostelecom – is expected to become the latest Russian bank to enter the country’s MVNO market, ComNews reports. Sberbank-backed SberMobile and Tinkoff Mobile, a subsidiary of Tinkoff Bank, both entered the MVNO sector in 2017 and utilise the Tele2 network.

Finally, New Zealand newcomer Kogan Mobile has been forced to change the colour scheme used on its website after a legal threat from Skinny, the sub-brand owned by New Zealand incumbent Spark. Ruslan Kogan, the CEO and founder of Australian online retailer described the letter as ‘aggressive,’ but joked: ‘We really appreciate you looking out for us and ensuring that no customers may confuse our incredible offers for something lacklustre.’

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