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

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19 Apr 2021

T-Mobile US has hit back at DISH Network as the two companies continue their war of words regarding the planned shutdown of the former Sprint CDMA networks which power DISH’s Boost Mobile MVNO subsidiary. In correspondence sent to Jessica Rosenworcel, acting chairwoman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), by Kathleen O’Brien Ham, T-Mobile’s Senior VP of Government Affairs, the mobile giant seeks to address ‘disinformation’ that has appeared in the media. Ms Ham notes: ‘We are migrating all of T-Mobile’s CDMA customers – a much larger number of customers – on exactly the same timeline as DISH’s Boost-branded customer base. This belies any suggestion that it can’t be done on a timely basis or that sticking with our agreed-upon timeline is somehow anti-competitive … DISH – which enjoys a reputation as a shrewd negotiator and hard bargainer – unambiguously agreed to assume responsibility for the migration of its customers from CDMA to the new T-Mobile network and the timeframe in which T-Mobile could sunset the network … There are compelling reasons for moving customers off CDMA and not delaying this transition. The customer experience on CDMA is substandard and declining with the passage of time. CDMA is incapable of delivering broadband speeds and suffers from higher latency and limited capacity.’ T-Mobile remains committed to sunsetting the CDMA network by January 2022.

Australia’s More Telecom has announced the takeover of fellow NBN reseller/MVNO Powercom Pacific. More Telecom General Manager, Andrew Branson commented: ‘The More business consistently seeks exciting expansion opportunities and with Powercom, we identified a business with complimentary cultural and business models. The Powercom customer base consists of long term, loyal, small business owners who want excellent service and we are confident we can deliver on this front.’ The press release notes that Powercom Pacific owns several brands including Powercom, Montimedia and QTelecom and all customers will be migrating to More Telecom. TeleGeography notes that More Telecom already serves the B2B segment via its Tangerine Telecom brand. Both MVNOs are understood to utilise the Telstra network for connectivity.

In the UK B2B sector, Pace Telecom has been acquired by Netherlands-based unified communications group Enreach, in a deal supported by pan-European investment company Waterland. The acquisition of Pace Telecom follows the formal launch of the Enreach UK brand earlier this month; the Pace Telecom brand will be phased into Enreach over the coming months. According to its website, Pace currently offers MVNO services via a ‘MultiNet SIM’ which automatically pick up the next strongest available mobile signal from either 02, EE or Three. For its part, Enreach UK leverages the Vodafone UK, O2 and EE networks to provide its own business mobile offering.

Orange Romania has teamed up with US vendor MATRIXX Software to launch YOXO, Orange’s first all-digital mobile brand in the region. YOXO was built in just one year with a team of 15 people and utilises MATRIXX’s digital commerce platform. While the new service was only announced on 30 March, the press release notes that YOXO actually went live in September 2020. As per the press release: ‘YOXO was first conceived by Orange Romania as a way to reach a burgeoning, emerging customer segment comprised of young, cost-conscious digital natives who shun the idea of long-term contract commitments.’

US MVNO BOSS Revolution, which is backed by US tech group IDT Corporation, has re-launched as BOSS Wireless. BOSS, which previously used the Sprint network for connectivity has confirmed that it now runs on the 4G and 5G networks of T-Mobile US. All BOSS Wireless plans feature unlimited calling within the US (including Puerto Rico), and to 65 popular international destinations including Mexico, Canada, Brazil, Argentina, Spain and the UK. BOSS Wireless customers can also make unlimited free app-to-app calls over Wi-Fi with the BOSS Revolution Calling app.

TracFone Wireless has confirmed that its Telcel America pre-paid brand has been quietly discontinued. All remaining subscribers were switched to sister brand Simple Mobile in a process that commenced on 11 February this year. TeleGeography 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 and Walmart Family Mobile. In addition, the SafeLink brand is part of the government subsidised ‘Lifeline’ programme. TracFone is set to be sold to Verizon in a USD6.25 billion deal announced in September 2020, and the Telcel shutdown has prompted speculation that other surplus brands may be phased out before the transaction concludes.

Finally, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has announced a number of retail and wholesale measures which it hopes will ‘spur more mobile wireless competition for Canadians’. In terms of MVNO access, the watchdog will require Bell Mobility, Rogers and Telus, as well as SaskTel (Saskatchewan only), to provide wholesale access to regional wireless providers that have invested in network infrastructure and spectrum, albeit under certain conditions. Wholesale rates will be negotiated between providers, while the terms and conditions will be established by the CRTC. This arrangement will be mandated for a period of seven years from the date it is finalised, which will give regional carriers time and incentive to expand their wireless networks. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the CRTC’s decision has attracted condemnation, with critics saying the guidelines do not go far enough. The Competitive Network Operators of Canada (CNOC), which represents more than 30 competitive telecoms providers across Canada, has issued a press release asserting: ‘Without the flexibility afforded through a full MVNO model, independent carriers are not set up to innovate on services and pricing. We’ve long advocated for fairness and choice for Canadians to help the country catch up to the global telecom landscape. Unfortunately, this decision sends us in the opposite direction and is simply bad for Canadians.’

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