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

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14 Sep 2020

UK supermarket chain Asda has signed a new mobile wholesale agreement with Vodafone UK, bringing an end to Asda Mobile’s seven-year association with EE. As a result of the five-year exclusive deal, Asda Mobile customers will benefit from Vodafone’s 4G and 5G coverage, unlimited mobile data plans and Wi-Fi calling. Vodafone says it will also provide Asda Mobile with digital tools so customers can access their accounts online, as well as analytics and insights so that Asda Mobile customers can be rewarded with targeted benefits and incentives. Existing Asda Mobile customers will begin to transition to the Vodafone network from early 2021, with new customers automatically joining the Vodafone network when they sign up. TeleGeography notes that Asda Mobile originally operated over the Vodafone network between 2007 and 2013, before opting to switch hosts.

Sticking with the UK, B2B player Gamma Communications has provided an operational update for its various MVNO businesses for the six months ended 30 June 2020. In the UK, its Three-based service claimed 64,000 users at 30 June 2020 – an increase of 3% from 62,000 at end-December 2019. Meanwhile, in the Netherlands, Dean One, its ‘long-term strategic partnership’ with T-Systems delivered 10,900 mobile connections at mid-2020, while VozTelecom in Spain has a mobile offering supported by Grupo MASMOVIL, and this had 7,700 connections as of end-June. Finally, its German business HFO has a subsidiary, Epsilon, which offers mobile connectivity via three of the country’s four major mobile operators. The German MVNO served 42,000 mobile users as of 30 June.

In Brazil, higher education establishment Cruzeiro do Sul Educacional has launched an MVNO called Cruzeiro Telecom which will target students and faculty. Surf Telecom serves as the MVNE for the project, providing a white-label service. The MVNO offers a ‘semestral’ (biannual) 9GB data allowance for BRL150 (USD28.2).

Slovakia will see the launch of a new MVNO next month, in the form of Radost. The newcomer – whose name translates as ‘Joy’ – will operate over the O2 Slovakia network.

In South Korea, Kookmin Bank is facing calls to shut down its Liiv M MVNO after the Labour Union alleged that the latter’s management team has reneged on its promise that the MVNO will not ‘interfere with banking matters’. Pitched as a mobile banking/mobile phone hybrid service, it has been suggested that bank staff have been pressured into selling Liiv M subscriptions to drive slow uptake. The MVNO launched in 4Q19, over the LG Uplus network.

Australian telco Vocus has announced the launch of a ‘flexible wholesale mobile solution’ in partnership with Optus Wholesale. The new white-label service will be targeted at Vocus’ Australian wholesale customers. Mark Callander, the telco’s CEO of Wholesale & International, commented: ‘Traditionally, the way wholesale mobile services have been offered has been a bit like buying a Model T Ford in the early 1900s – you can have them in any colour as long as it’s black … Our wholesale customers know their market and end customers better than anyone, so it makes good sense to give them the freedom to build mobile plans as they need.’

Finally, Professor Konstantinos Masselos, the head of Greece’s National Telecommunications & Post Commission (Ethniki Epitropi Tilepikoinonion kai Tachydromeion, EETT) has hinted that mandated MVNO access will be incorporated into the licensing terms for the forthcoming 5G spectrum auction. Capital.gr quotes him as saying: ‘The lack of MVNOs in many markets, including Greece, is most often associated with barriers to entry; for this reason we presented terms … that remove these barriers and promote the presence of virtual providers … I personally believe that every company with more than 80,000 to 100,000 customers in Greece should consider becoming an MVNO.’

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