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

3 Feb 2020

US cable giant Comcast Corporation has confirmed that its Xfinity Mobile MVNO unit has passed the two million-subscriber milestone. The cableco’s wireless customer base reached 2.052 million subscribers at 31 December 2019, up from 1.236 million one year earlier. Full-year wireless revenues jumped from USD890 million in 2018 to USD1.167 billion in 2019, Comcast reported.

Sticking with Comcast, the US player has sealed a takeover deal for Dublin-based Unified Communications-as-a-Service (UCaaS) provider Blueface. While the acquisition was driven by the desire to ‘add Blueface’s proprietary and fully customisable cloud voice unified communications platform to Comcast Business’s portfolio of business-grade solutions’, TeleGeography notes that Blueface also launched B2B MVNO services over the Three Ireland network in February 2012. The MVNO agreement is still understood to be active, although this has not been confirmed.

Another US cableco making waves in the MVNO segment is Charter Communications. The cableco has reported that its Spectrum Mobile MVNO ended 2019 with 1.082 million subscribers, after quarter-on-quarter net adds of 288,000. The MVNO’s ‘full market launch’ took place in September 2018 and Charter claimed 144,000 subscribers at end-2018. Full year wireless revenues jumped from USD106 million in 2018 to USD726 million in 2019.

Over in Poland, a new MVNO is poised to launch under the Caritas Laczy brand name. According to Telepolis, the new player will launch in March and pledges to allocate one-third of its profits to charitable causes. As the MVNO moves towards its commercial launch, MOVE Telecom will act as the mobile virtual network enabler (MVNE) the report notes. Caritas Laczy stresses that its subscribers will not pay extra for the service, and that the charitable donation will be met by the MVNO.

San Francisco-based TextNow, which describes itself as ‘the largest provider of free phone service in the US’, has announced that it has introduced a new ‘Free Nationwide Talk & Text’ service, which provides unlimited, ad-supported calling and texting in the US over the Sprint network. The new launch represents an extension of TextNow’s app, which has been downloaded 200 million times to date. Derek Ting, CEO of TextNow, commented: ‘We provide our users with a real phone number to call or text anyone, anywhere in the US and Canada, at no cost, unlike other calling and messaging apps that only let you connect with people who have the same app.’

Finally, UK-based Tesco Mobile has revealed plans to introduce 5G access in ‘early 2020’, noting: ‘We’re working on our rollout now and hope to launch 5G phones on Tesco Mobile soon in 2020. After our initial rollout, we’ll join with O2’s UK-wide rollout programme.’ The move means that Tesco will follow in the footsteps of fellow O2 MVNO Sky Mobile, which activated 5G access for its subscribers in January this year. 5G technology is currently available in 21 cities and towns across the UK, including London, Edinburgh, Belfast and Cardiff, but O2 plans to extend connectivity to a total of 50 UK destinations by this summer.

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