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

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21 Sep 2020

Verizon Communications has entered into an agreement to acquire 100% of US MVNO TracFone Wireless from Mexican telecoms group America Movil. The total USD6.25 billion consideration for the transaction will include USD3.125 billion in cash and USD3.125 billion in Verizon common stock, subject to customary adjustments. The deal is subject to receipt of regulatory approvals and other customary closing conditions. Verizon expects the transaction to close in the second half of 2021. TracFone is currently the largest reseller of wireless services in the US and served 20.918 million subscribers as of 30 June 2020. A long-time wholesale partner of Verizon, more than 13 million TracFone subscribers are currently said to utilise Verizon’s wireless network. MVNO Monday notes that TracFone currently operates via a number of pre-paid brands, which include: TracFone, NET10, Straight Talk, Total Wireless, Simple Mobile, Page Plus Cellular, Walmart Family Mobile and Telcel America. In addition, the SafeLink brand is part of the government subsidised Lifeline programme.

Uzbekistan has its first MVNO, in the form of Humans. The new player is said to be the brainchild of Vladimir Dobrynin – the former CEO of Russian MVNO Yota. Humans, which opened for pre-orders on 19 August, launched commercially on 15 September, foregrounding its fintech/mobile banking proposition. It already boasts 400,000 downloads of its app, and pre-orders of 150,000 for its SIM cards and VISA cards, which were launched concurrently. While its MNO partner has not been disclosed, Humans has confirmed it will use the ‘998 33’ number prefix.

Georgia plans to allow MVNOs to launch from February 2021, the Georgian National Communications Commission (GNCC) has revealed, with a view to increasing competition and reducing tariffs. The watchdog stated: ‘The Commission has been working on allowing the entry of MVNOs for two years and mobile operators and international consultancy companies with 20 years of experience were involved in the process. We emphasise that the issue of personal data as well as cybersecurity is protected.’ According to local news site Agenda, protests from mobile market leader MagtiCom have prompted the GNCC to agree to stage a new study.

Russian B2B MVNO MCN Telecom is set to merge with fellow virtual operator DANYCOM, which serves the B2C sector. As per the letter of intent, DANYCOM – which was recently embroiled in a dispute with network host Tele2 Russia – will transfer its MVNO user base to MCN. Financial considerations have not been disclosed, but the two parties say they have reached ‘the final stage of negotiations’.

Sticking with Russia, on 17 September Tele2 Russia announced the commercial launch of Migo Mobile, a new MVNO set up by business blogger Azam Khodjaev. The new player has been launched in conjunction with Next Mobile. During the launch phase, Migo Mobile will operate in Moscow and the Moscow region, while SIM cards are only available via Tele2 stores. Khodzhaev commented: ‘We are creating not just another virtual telecom operator, we are creating a community, an ecosystem of like-minded people, a point of attraction for entrepreneurs … community members will receive unique rates, as well as access to exclusive content, offers and training materials.’

South African MVNO FNB Connect, part of domestic banking group FNB, has signed up 710,000 mobile subscribers, up 30% year-on-year. The figure was disclosed to MyBroadband.co.za by CEO Bradwin Roper, who noted: ‘We are seeing significant growth in customer numbers for FNB Connect. These are customers that are both financially and network active, not just SIMs we have distributed in the market.’ The MVNO launched in June 2015 over the Cell C network.

Elsewhere, Australian MVNO Boost Mobile has celebrated its 20th anniversary and confirmed that it now serves ‘well north’ of 500,000 subscribers. IT Wire quotes a media briefing as saying: ‘Boost Mobile continues to deliver strong results locally across a range of metrics. It is now the fastest growing MVNO in Australia by organic customer acquisition, and it is now supporting more Australians than any other time in its 20-year history.’

Over in Germany, Telefonica Deutschland and 1&1 Drillisch are at loggerheads over the terms of their ongoing Mobile Bitstream Access (MBA) MVNO contract. Telefonica has confirmed that its renewed deal with 1&1 Drillisch took effect on 1 July 2020 and will run until 30 June 2025, asserting that: ‘The terms and conditions have been transparent for both parties at all times as the details of the pricing mechanism have been part of the merger approval documents for the acquisition of E-Plus in 2014 and have been confirmed by both parties in May 2017.’ The statement follows an announcement from 1&1 indicating than an increase in the cost of its network access deal will hit its profits this year. The network host added that it: ‘… strongly rejects any allegations and indications … that [it] would not fulfil its legal obligations and reserves all its rights’.

Finally, New York-based Strattner Technologies, a subsidiary of Strattner Financial Group, has partnered with Pareteum to launch a GSM MVNO called Strattner Voice, which it says will complement its satellite communications network, Strattner.Space. Timo Strattner, CEO of Strattner Group, commented: ‘Our mission is to reconnect America.’

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