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

2 Dec 2019

Australian MVNO amaysim has announced that it has completed the AUD7.8 million (USD5.3 million) takeover of smaller rival Jeenee Communications, which it hopes will bolster its position as the country’s leading virtual operator. The acquired company serves more than 41,700 recurring mobile subscribers and uses the Optus network (i.e. the same network as amaysim). In an announcement to the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX), amaysim notes that the acquisition forms part of its ‘strategic pillar to grow its position in the mobile market both organically and through complementary bolt-on acquisitions’. The addition of Jeenee’s mobile subscribers brings amaysim’s total recurring mobile subscriber base to 698,600 (as at 28 November 2019). In December 2015 the company’s existing management team formed Jeenee Communications and purchased Jeenee Mobile from Community Connections Australia. The MVNO’s core goal is ‘to assist people living with disability to use modern communications technologies to live more independently’.

US MVNO Mint Mobile has confirmed that it has secured a new owner – Hollywood actor Ryan Reynolds. Mint, which launched back in 2016, and started life as an offshoot of Ultra Mobile, uses the T-Mobile US network. The actor said of his investment: ‘It’s a bit unconventional, which is why I like it. Celebrities generally invest in high-end products like skincare brands or delicious gin companies. Yet Mint is making wireless way more affordable at a time when the average American is paying USD65 a month. I’m excited to champion a more practical approach to the most essential technology.’ Mint Mobile says Reynolds will be a part of the company’s ‘strategic decision making’ along with assisting with communications and marketing efforts.

Sticking with the US, Tucows has issued an operational update for its US MVNO subsidiary, Ting Mobile. An edited transcript of the parent company’s 3Q19 earnings conference call (as reported by Yahoo Finance), quotes Elliot Noss, President and CEO of Tucows, as saying: ‘The most important update I can offer on Ting Mobile is that our Verizon integration is going well, and we are on track to start adding our first customers by the end of the year. We’ll be working out kinks for the first quarter or so, but our tech team has been pleased so far with the platform and the integration tools, I’m very excited about the upgrade in partnership, network and margins in 2020.’ The MVNO finished Q3 with 166,000 accounts and 294,000 subscribers. This figure includes 12,000 former FreedomPop subscribers, which Ting ended up paying USD3.45 million for, admitting the acquired users ‘were less than we would have liked’.

International MVNO Truphone has announced that it has launched in France – its ninth market. The new service will operate using the Orange France 4G network. Truphone says that its chief aims are to ‘help companies avoid costly bills for international business’ and ‘promises to reinvent the way people, things and businesses connect around the world using ground-breaking new software’. Truphone claims to be ‘a pioneer in connected technology’ and says that its patented global mobile recording service helps financial organisations meet industry regulations and is currently trusted by ten of the world’s twelve largest investment banks.

Over in South Africa, financial services provider Clientele has launch an MVNO under the Clientele Mobile brand. The service, which is being offered via an undisclosed ‘leading’ network operator, will target existing users of the company’s services, which include life cover, hospital cover, legal cover, personal loans and investment solutions. Clientele says it is the first South African insurer to introduce a mobile service.

In an interview with Gigabit Magazine, Gerardo Suarez Napolitano, the CEO of Tuenti Ecuador, has disclosed that the sub-brand has exceeded its original pre-launch subscriber projections. The executive commented: ‘We started out with a plan to reach 500,000 customers in five years. Four-and-a-half years into that plan, we have more than 900,000 … Our target demographic wants data, so that’s at the heart of everything we offer. We also value our loyal customers as much as we value our new ones, so long-term Tuenti customers will always have access to the same great offerings we present to our newest customers.’ Tuenti – a sub-brand of Movistar Ecuador – launched in May 2015.

Kosovar MVNO Z Mobile’s remaining subscribers have been migrated to host network Telecom Kosovo (TK), after the latter chose not to renew its controversial contract with the MVNO in July this year. Following the termination of the contract, sector watchdog the Regulatory Authority for Post and Electronic Communications (Autoriteti Rregullator i Komunikimeve Elektronike dhe Postare, ARKEP) oversaw a 120-day transition period – which expired on 28 November – to minimise disruption and ensure continuity of service for customers. Kosova Press quotes TK CEO Bedri Istrefi as saying: ‘As we have promised to customers, they will not be left without services and will continue to have Kosovo Telecom services. And we value it as an additional revenue, which will create opportunities for technical and financial stability.’ The news outlet reported, however, that some former Z Mobile customers had complained that they had been left out of pocket by the switch, having lost the remaining balance on their account. TK and Z Mobile are currently involved in a legal battle relating to their original 2009 MVNO contract. According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, Z Mobile had a total of 234,480 subscribers at end-June 2019.

Finally, in an interview with Marketing Week to celebrate the ten-year anniversary of giffgaff’s launch, chief marketing officer Sophie Wheater commented: ‘The brand originally was very much about being small and disruptive and pushing against the big networks. But the industry has changed significantly over that time. Differentiators around contract-free the industry is following and so they’re not so strong as USPs [unique selling propositions] anymore. But there is an opportunity to think about what we stand for rather than against.’ In September, giffgaff filed its accounts for the twelve months ended 31 December 2018, reporting revenues of GBP449.2 million (USD580.7 million) for the year under review, up from GBP407.4 million in 2017. giffgaff reported net subscriber adds of 435,995 in 2018, compared to 261,417 in 2017 and ended the year with ‘three million members’.

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