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

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9 Nov 2020

Virgin Mobile South Africa has been placed under ‘business rescue’, local website Business Maverick reports, citing a filing at the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC). The change in status indicates that the company is financially distressed and in the process of restructuring its affairs. The objective of business rescue is to allow a company to continue operating while it is restructured. The report notes that John Henning and Peter Thompson were appointed as business rescue practitioners on 23 September this year. The MVNO launched over the Cell C network in June 2006.

The UK has a new MVNO in the form of To The Moon Mobile. The newcomer describes its proposition as ‘an ecosystem of future-focused products and services that aims to best equip our customers with mobile and fin-tech essentials for today, as well as tomorrow’. Aside from the standard calls/SMS/data MVNO services, To The Moon Mobile will also offer an integrated crypto wallet, via a partnership with Blockchain BK Limited. This function will support 18 different types of cryptocurrency. As per its Companies House filing, the company’s immediate parent company is Exeter-based DAR Global UK Limited and the ultimate controlling shareholder is listed as Kazakh businessman Alidar Utemuratov.

In Belgium Citymesh has reached an agreement to offer mobile and fixed telecom services to its customers over the Proximus network. Founded in 2006, B2B operator Citymesh specialises in the planning, installation and maintenance of large-scale, complex and high-density Wi-Fi networks as well as the construction of private 4G and 5G networks. Mitch De Geest, CEO of Citymesh, commented: ‘The ambition of Citymesh is to become the fourth Belgium operator with a clear focus on industrial use cases.’

UCLOUDLINK, which describes itself as a ‘mobile data traffic sharing marketplace’, has completed the acquisition of a 10% stake in Beijing Huaxiang Lianxin Technology (Huaxiang Lianxin), an MVNO which has resale contracts with both China Mobile and China Unicom. The original share purchase agreement (SPA) was signed back on 28 February 2019 between UCLOUDLINK and Tianjin Dongye Technology and Shanghai Wenhou Investment Management.

Liberty Global has confirmed that its four European MVNO units all added subscribers in the three months ended 30 September 2020. UK-based Virgin Mobile secured net adds of 81,500 in 3Q20, to take its wireless user base to 3.350 million, while Virgin Ireland added 11,400 subscribers for a base of 115,200. UPC Switzerland ended the quarter with 235,600 mobile customers, an increase of 12,400 quarter-on-quarter, while UPC Poland added 6,100 subscribers for a total of 28,300.

Austrian MVNO Spusu has confirmed that it reached the 400,000-subscriber mark in September this year. Parent company Mass Response launched the MVNO over the Drei network back in June 2015.

Japanese ISP/MVNO IIJ has announced that it has developed and completed operational trials for ‘Japan’s first eSIM that is compatible with 5G Standalone (SA) [architecture]’. IIJ became the country’s first Full MVNO in March 2018, going on to introduce eSIM functionality in July 2019. The telco says it is currently developing and testing core network technologies for 5G SA, with an eye toward expanding its focus to encompass ‘local 5G applications’.

Finally, on 29 October Brazil’s National Telecommunications Agency (Agencia Nacional de Telecomunicacoes, Anatel) introduced new rules relating to wholesale access within the MVNO sector. Specifically, the watchdog ruled that accredited MVNOs can now sign access agreements with more than one mobile network operator (MNO).

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Austria, Belgium, Brazil, China, Ireland, Japan, Poland, South Africa, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Citymesh, Huaxiang Telecom, Internet Initiative Japan (IIJ), National Telecommunications Agency (Anatel), Spusu (Mass Response), To The Moon Mobile, UPC Poland, UPC Switzerland, Virgin Media Ireland, Virgin Mobile (South Africa)