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

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6 Sep 2021

Long-running MVNO Virgin Mobile South Africa has announced that it will shut down its operations in November this year. A statement posted on the virtual operator’s website explains: ‘In recent years, the market has changed considerably, and a combination of tough trading conditions, strong competition and the economic stress posed by COVID-19 means that it has been a challenging market for Virgin Mobile South Africa. After 15 amazing years, our Virgin Mobile story is coming to an end. Virgin Mobile South Africa service will come to an end on 30 November 2021.’

UK MVNE x-Mobility has helped to launch a pair of digital MVNOs for WanTok Pacific Corporation in Tonga and Vanuatu. Branded WanTok Mobile, the new service launched on 3 September in each market and leverages x-Mobility’s ‘AppVNO’ solution. The press release notes that WanTok Mobile provides an over-the-top mobile service, with customers utilising their existing data and Wi-Fi connections to make low-cost mobile calls and send SMS. According to WanTok, the MVNOs make use of the following mobile number ranges: 676 555 xxxx (Tonga) and 678 875 xxxx (Vanuatu). Justin Kaitapu, CEO of WanTok Pacific Corporation, commented: ‘We have been able to establish a mobile operation, with our own number range, that complements our existing network and infrastructure, without the capital expenditure of a full GSM network.’ In parallel, WanTok has launched a new low-cost money remittance service called WanTok Money, and harbours plans to branch out with WanTok Beats (music) and WanTok Go (movies) in the near future.

DISH Network’s Boost Mobile unit has announced its plan to acquire Los Angeles-based pre-paid MVNO Gen Mobile. DISH says that the acquisition will ‘enable Boost Mobile to distribute to a larger segment of the low-income population while continuing its mass market expansion’. Boost will procure the Gen Mobile brand, customer base, existing distribution network, technology and its seasoned wireless team. The transaction is subject to customary closing conditions, including regulatory approvals. Gen Mobile will remain headquartered in Los Angeles post-closing.

Over in Spain, Madrid-based cloud computing firm Gigas Hosting (GIGAS) has announced that it has completed the EUR9.1 million (USD10.8 million) takeover of local MVNO OnMovil Division Telefonia Movil Tyson Carrasco Inversiones (OnMovil). The acquired company’s focus is on supplying wireless connectivity to around 200 regional operators and OnMovil currently claims to serve 85,000 mobile lines. According to Gigas, OnMovil generated annual revenue of EUR9.58 million in 2020. Previously, OnMovil was spun off from LCR Telecom on 1 May 2020. Meanwhile, Gigas notes that the deal represents its eighth acquisition to date and its fifth in the last year.

Norwegian electricity provider Fjordkraft, which began offering MVNO services over the Telenor Norge network in April 2017, announced the acquisition of Skymobil’s mobile customer portfolio on 25 August. Skymobil serves just under 38,000 subscribers. The company notes: ‘The mobile customers will be included in the group’s new growth initiatives and contribute to increased profitability in this business area.’ At the end of second quarter 2021, the number of Fjordkraft mobile subscribers was 134,000, a decrease of around 1,000 quarter-on-quarter, but up from 118,000 in June 2020.

UK B2B player Gamma Communications has announced that its Benelux-based subsidiaries Dean One and gnTel will come together as Gamma Communications Nederland. Acquired in 2018 and 2020 respectively, Dean One and gnTel offer a wide range of communications solutions for all segments of the business market. Dean One has offered MVNO services via the T-Mobile Netherlands network since 2018.

Plintron Group has announced that Colombia’s Ministry of Information Technologies and Communications (Ministerio de Tecnologias de la Informacion y las Comunicaciones, MinTIC) has awarded Plintron Colombia a ‘Telefonia Movil Virtual’ licence, which will enable it to operate as an MVNA in the country. The press release notes: ‘Exciting times are ahead for the Colombian mobile ecosystem as the entry of Plintron will benefit all stakeholders including MNOs, MVNOs, enterprises and IoT service providers.’

Sticking with Latin America, Brazilian retail giant Magazine Luiza reportedly relaunched its Maga+ MVNO on 20 August, over the Claro Brasil network. The new service replaced the short-lived 2018 MVNO, which was launched in conjunction with Surf Telecom and TIM Brasil.

Finally, Orange Espana has confirmed that its long-running Amena sub-brand will be discontinued from 13 September, with all subscribers migrated to the main Orange brand by end-2021. The discontinuation of Amena marks the end of one of the Spanish telecoms sector’s most enduring brands. Amena was first introduced by Retevision Movil back in 1999, but the brand was ditched by France Telecom (now Orange Group) following its 2005 takeover of Amena Movil Telecomunicaciones. In an about-turn, the Amena brand was resurrected in 2012 as Orange sought to target the budget segment. TeleGeography notes that Amena is the second Orange sub-brand to be abandoned this year. In a process which started on 11 June all Republica Movil subscribers are being migrated across to the telco’s Simyo unit.

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