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

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4 Jan 2021

The French Competition Authority (Autorite de la Concurrence) has confirmed that it has approved the previously announced takeover of Euro-Information Telecom (EI Telecom) by Bouygues Telecom, albeit with conditions. In a statement dated 22 December the watchdog explained: ‘The Authority ruled out any risk of harm to competition in the market for the distribution of mobile telephony products and services. However, it considered that the concentration is likely to substantially modify the structure of competition in terms of wholesale supply to virtual operators marketing their offers to businesses. In fact, the Authority identified a risk of the disappearance of EIT offer to certain virtual operators, leading in particular to a foreclosure risk of access to this market for these operators. In order to respond to this concern, Bouygues Telecom undertook commitments aimed at ensuring, following the transaction, the maintenance of a wholesale offer equivalent to EIT’s current offer.’ TeleGeography notes that EI Telecom operates a number of MVNO brands, including Credit Mutuel Mobile, CIC Mobile, NRJ Mobile, Auchan Telecom and Cdiscount Mobile. The various brands currently serve around two million mobile subscribers.

Over in Italy, Dig Mobil will switch network hosts on 17 January, moving from Telecom Italia (TIM) to Vodafone Italy. According to local site Mondo Mobile Web users will not be required to switch SIM cards, as the MVNO already uses a Full MVNO platform. Digi Mobil, which celebrated its ten-year anniversary in Italy in December 2020, served 253,000 mobile customers as of 3Q20.

Unimobile, which last year declared its intention to launch as an MVNO in Slovakia using the ‘0943’ number prefix, has admitted that it has reached a stalemate in its wholesale negotiations with the country’s MNOs. According to Zive, the matter is now in the hands of the Office for Regulation of Electronic Communications & Postal Services. The would-be virtual operator expects the regulator to announce its findings in March. Undeterred, Unimobile boss Michal Rybarik says that he now intends to target neighbouring Czech Republic instead, and has already liaised with the Czech Telecommunication Office.

Finally, international MVNE Plintron says it has been awarded a Russian MVNO licence by the Ministry of Digital Development, Communications & Mass Media (via the subordinate Federal Communications Agency [Rossvyaz] which is in the process of gradually transferring its functionalities to its parent Ministry under a November 2020 presidential decree scrapping the agency). In a brief statement, the MVNE noted: ‘Plintron looks forward to expand [into] the competitive Russian market, with a 150 million population and over ten million MVNO subscribers. Plintron will launch its mobile network services in Russia by Q1 2021.’

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