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

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17 Feb 2020

US cable giant Charter Communications has announced that its Spectrum Mobile MVNO will activate a millimetre wave (mmWave)-powered 5G service for its subscribers on 6 March. The MVNO, which launched in July 2018 over the Verizon Wireless network, will make a number of 5G-enabled handsets available on that date, including the Samsung Galaxy S20 5G, the Samsung Galaxy S20+ 5G and the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G. Danny Bowman, Chief Mobile Officer for Charter, commented: ‘This year we look forward to expanding our 5G coverage and device options for Spectrum Mobile customers as the technology becomes more widely available.’

Telefonica Brasil (Vivo) has confirmed that Mais AD, an MVNO which operates over its networks, will cease to operate on 5 April 2020. The MVNO, which is affiliated with the Brazilian arm of the Assembly of God church, switched on its virtual network on 1 October 2015, but has struggled to make an impact.

Sticking with Brazil, the National Telecommunications Agency (Agencia Nacional de Telecomunicacoes, Anatel) has indicated that market newcomer J. Safra Telecomunicacoes served a total of 319,720 subscribers as of 31 December 2019, although the bulk of these (228,396) were M2M accounts. As such, the company served just 91,324 pure mobile users at year-end. Safra launched in 4Q18 over the Claro Brasil network and utilises the ‘Cinco’ brand name. Elsewhere, B2B player America Net ended 2019 with 27,536 MVNO customers. The telco launched its MVNO in March 2018, over the TIM Brasil network.

America Movil (AM)-backed MVNO group TracFone Wireless ended 31 December 2019 with a total of 20.876 million subscribers, down from 21.688 million one year earlier. The company’s leading Straight Talk brand claimed 9.382 million users at year-end, while SafeLink – a ‘Lifeline’ programme-affiliated MVNO – ended 2019 with 2.173 million customers.

Elsewhere, Singaporean MVNO Circles.Life has confirmed that it has received funding in an equity round from global private equity (PE) firm Warburg Pincus to further fund growth and for expansion in new markets. Previous investors are understood to include venture capital firm Sequoia Capital, Singapore’s Economic Development Board Investment (EDBI) and Silicon Valley’s Founders Fund. Circles.Life also operates in Taiwan (since June 2019) and Australia (September 2019) and plans to enter three more Asia-Pacific markets, including Indonesia.

Finally, UK MVNE x-Mobility has informed MVNO Monday that it has signed up a new mobile provider called Gist Mobile, which intends to target the African diaspora in the UK, Europe and North America. The digital service will be offered via x-Mobility’s digital AppVNO solution, meaning that subscribers do not need to change their SIM card or have a second device. There are an estimated two million people of African origin in the UK alone.

x-Mobility went on to note that its AppVNO solution will also be used to power a new service from an existing African MNO that will be offered to international travellers. The unnamed operator will chiefly target its French speaking subscribers and provide ‘local’ numbers for their destination. The app will also allow for free calls and messages back home while they are away.

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