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

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17 Aug 2020

Consumer Cellular – one of the top five largest MVNOs/sub-brands in the United States – is in discussions with unnamed parties over a potential sale, it has been reported. Responding to the speculation, a company spokesperson told Light Reading: ‘While the company is always open to strategic partnerships and growth opportunities that will take the company to the next level, there is nothing currently in the works.’ Founded in 1995, Consumer Cellular targets the over-50s demographic, and believes that ‘everyone should have affordable access to the safety and convenience of cellular service.’ While the identity of the bidder remains unclear, the sale process could potentially represent another opportunity for DISH Network to increase its presence within the sector. In recent months, DISH has acquired two US MVNOs, Boost Mobile and Ting Mobile.

Over in Japan, ISP-turned-MVNO IIJ has reported that its IIJmio consumer MVNO subscriber base stood at 1.063 million at 30 June 2020, down slightly from 1.074 million one year earlier. In the enterprise sector, meanwhile, IIJ reported that its B2B Mobile MVNO Platform Service accounted for 1.124 million subscribers as of end-June, up from 1.072 million year-on-year.

Elsewhere, Romania’s DIGI Communications has reported that its Spanish MVNO DIGI Mobil ended 30 June 2020 with 2.098 million subscribers, up from 1.634 million year-on-year. The virtual operator targets the Romanian diaspora in Spain, which is understood to represent almost 20% of the country’s foreign population. The Spanish unit also claimed 136,000 fixed broadband customers and 49,000 fixed voice subscribers, via its fibre service, which leverages a wholesale deal with Telefonica Espana. The Italian DIGI Mobil MVNO unit, meanwhile, grew its customer base to 245,000 by the end of June 2020.

In South Korea, automotive manufacturer Kia Motors is considering applying for an MVNO licence as it seeks to launch a new connected car service. Kia intends to focus on services such as remote control, safety security, vehicle management and road guidance. According to MK.co.kr, Kia will join fellow car firm Hyundai Motor Company in the sector; the latter has been registered as an MVNO since 2015 and uses the KT and LG Uplus networks to support its own ‘Bluelink’ connected car services.

Finally, Franz Pichler, the boss of Austrian MVNO Spusu, has informed Kurier that the virtual operator now serves 300,000 subscribers. In terms of the company’s 5G ambitions, Pichler told the publication that it will focus on industrial and peripheral areas of the country, noting: ‘When expanding the network, we are concentrating on sparsely populated, underserved regions.’ In March 2019 Spusu’s parent Mass Response acquired 30MHz of 5G-suitable for the Lower Austria and Burgenland region. The firm paid EUR1.8 million (USD2.1 million) for the 3410MHz-3440MHz frequencies and plans to roll out its own 5G network in rural areas of the region.

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Austria, Japan, South Korea, Spain, United States, Consumer Cellular, DIGI Mobil (Italy), DIGI Mobil (Spain), IIJ Mobile, Internet Initiative Japan (IIJ), Spusu (Mass Response)