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

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18 Jan 2021

A new pre-paid MVNO is poised to launch in Romania under the Benefito Mobile brand name. According to Romania Insider, domestic investment fund ROCA X – which focuses on start-ups in disruptive industries – has invested EUR150,000 (USD182,733) in the venture, which has been established by industry veterans Marian Velicu and Marius Ionescu. The new virtual operator expects to launch in 2Q21, and will reward customers with additional credit every time they purchase products and services from partner companies. The company’s founders hope to sign up 37,000 users by end-2021 and generate annual turnover of EUR700,000.

Vodafone Ireland has followed in the footsteps of rivals eir and Three with the introduction of a new no-frills pre-paid sub-brand. According to its website, Clear Mobile – a digital, SIM-only proposition – is offering the first month’s service for free for the first 25,000 users to sign up. After that period, a monthly EUR12.99 tariff will apply. According to the Irish Times, Vodafone has made it clear that Clear Mobile is an independent entity with a separate management and operations team. As previously reported by MVNO Monday, GoMo was launched by eir in October 2019 to target the budget segment. Subsequently, in May 2020 48 Months, the former O2 Ireland sub-brand that was inherited by Three following its 2014 takeover, rebranded itself as 48. The youth-focused brand was first introduced back in 2012.

T-Mobile Netherlands announced on 14 January 2021 that mobile customers of its sub-brand Tele2 can now use 5G services across its national network, which was switched on in late July 2020 and currently offers 90%-plus population coverage. Tele2 subscribers with capable smartphones can opt to activate 5G access for EUR2 per month and have the option to switch 5G on or off monthly.

Mexican MVNO Simplii, which was launched in 2017 by a team of Mexican and Danish entrepreneurs, has announced that it will be shutting down at 11.59pm on 21 January. The virtual operator used the Movistar network for connectivity. A message on the MVNO’s website reads: ‘After more than three years of being with you, fighting with you to provide the best telephony experience in Mexico and getting closer every moment, we have to say goodbye as the Simplii project comes to an end.’

Elsewhere in Latin America, Brazil’s Banco Inter-backed Intercel – which launched its beta service in May 2020 – has reportedly launched as an ‘accredited MVNO’ over the Telefonica Brasil (Vivo) network. Last May Banco Inter noted that it served five million account holders and 400,000 of its customers regularly topped up their mobile accounts at one of the bank’s branches, giving it a substantial customer base to target with its new cellular service.

Australian MVNO amaysim has advised that, ahead of the Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM) scheduled to be held on Thursday 21 January, its largest shareholder, Investmentaktiengesellschaft fur langfristige Investoren TGV (Langfrist) has informed the company of its intent to vote in favour of the previously agreed sale of amaysim’s mobile business, to Optus, in the absence of a superior proposal.

In a parallel development amaysim has responded to recent media speculation with the following statement: ‘Contrary to comments in the media, amaysim’s Board of Directors has not received a formal and fulsome proposal from RAMCap. RAMCap has not provided sufficient information in relation to its interest in amaysim and the company is unclear as to RAMCap’s claimed returns, ability to fund such a transaction and its ability to create sufficient liquidity in its privately held stock and options. At this time, the offer from WAM Capital is the only substantiated offer for amaysim.’ The offer from WAM Capital was accepted in December 2020 and will take place following the sale of amaysim’s mobile business, to Optus.

AT&T Communications sub-brand Cricket Wireless has confirmed that it plans to end service on 3G UMTS networks by February 2022, in line with its parent company. In preparation, starting on 19 January 2021 Cricket says that it will no longer activate devices that customers bring if the device is not HD Voice-capable, or an LTE-capable data-only device compatible with the Cricket network.

UK-based MVNE x-Mobility has informed TeleGeography that Vyke, its digital ‘AppVNO’ service, increased its average net new additions by over 50% in the fourth quarter of 2020. Nigeria is its largest market in subscriber terms, while the fastest growing country in Q4 was Pakistan. Pakistan and India are now Vyke’s second and third biggest markets. Shanks Kulam, co-founder of x-Mobility, commented: ‘2020 has seen a decrease in the number of new SIM-based MVNOs launching, but a dramatic increase in the number of digital MVNOs launching and enquiring. With more and more people globally working from home they can use their home Wi-Fi and don’t need an additional SIM-based service. But they still want the flexibility of a second line, free calls to contacts and international numbers on their existing handset.’

Finally, Canadian MVNO PhoneBox has become a partner in the Languages Canada ‘Student Safe Corridor’ project to provide international students with a Canadian phone number before they arrive in the country. To support students undergoing a 14-day quarantine under COVID-19 restrictions, the programme supplies a package including accommodation, transportation, meals, health insurance and a SIM card enabling students to register their phone number with border service agents upon arrival in Canada. Launched in 2011, PhoneBox specialises in affordable, contract-free mobile phone plans for travellers and international students, with coverage provided on the Telus and Rogers networks.

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Australia, Brazil, Canada, Ireland, Mexico, Netherlands, Romania, United Kingdom, United States, amaysim (incl. Vaya), Benefito Mobile, Clear Mobile, Cricket Wireless, Inter Cel (Banco Inter), PhoneBox (Canada), Simplii, Tele2 (part of Odido/T-Mobile), Vyke, x-Mobility

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