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

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22 Nov 2021

In Brazil, the General Superintendence (Superintendencia-Geral, SG) of the Administrative Council for Economic Defence (Conselho Administrativo de Defesa Economica, CADE) has reportedly approved the proposed acquisition of local MVNO J. Safra Telecomunicacoes (Cinco) by its network host, Claro Brasil. TeleGeography notes that the MVNO is part of Sao Paulo-based Grupo Safra, which has interests in banking, real estate and agribusiness. The company was awarded an MVNO licence in July 2018 and duly signed a ten-year wholesale contract with Claro, launching later that year. The MVNO served 355,420 subscriptions as of 30 September 2021.

Norwegian cellco ice has launched a new digital sub-brand called NiceMobil. The newcomer foregrounds its use of eSIM technology, with Shiraz Abid, commercial director of ice, noting: ‘The time has come to recycle the physical SIM cards. Some of them actually contain some gold and can be melted into World Cup medals or wedding rings. Or you can have a necklace made to have a memory from the past.’

Salt Mobile, the Swiss operator backed by Xavier Niel’s NJJ Group, has launched a new sub-brand called GoMo. The new service seeks to gain traction with a monthly CHF9.95 (USD10.73) ‘price for life’. As previously reported by MVNO Monday, another Niel-backed European operator, Eir of Ireland, launched a GoMo sub-brand back in October 2019. The Irish version also offered would-be users a price for life, although it replaced its introductory EUR9.99 (USD11.11) per month ‘lifetime’ subscription offer with a EUR12.99 package after reaching the 100,000 subscriptions milestone. The monthly tariff has since been increased to EUR14.99.

Sticking with sub-brands, the Vodafone Spain-backed LOWI unit – which is now marketed at all Vodafone points of sale – has confirmed that its total mobile subscription base grew by 144,000 in the three months ended 30 September, to reach 1.3 million. Elsewhere in Europe, Vodafone Italy sub-brand ho ended September with 2.7 million subscriptions.

Kena, which went live back in March 2017 over the Telecom Italia (TIM) network has announced that it has reached the two million subscriptions milestone. Kena has been operated as a subsidiary of TIM since the telco completed its ‘merger by incorporation’ with domestic MVNE Noverca on 31 October 2019.

Finally, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has approved the acquisition of TracFone Wireless by Verizon Communications, after applying a number of consumer protection conditions to ensure the takeover will be in the public interest. These enhancements and protections are as follows:

· TracFone or Verizon must participate in California LifeLine programme for 20 years after the close of the transaction.

· To ensure that TracFone maintains a significant level of participation in California LifeLine in future years, TracFone and Verizon must enroll at least 200,000 California LifeLine subscribers by 31 December 2025. Additionally, by 31 December 2023, at least 15% of California LifeLine subscribers must be in low-income disadvantaged communities.

· TracFone or Verizon must offer LifeLine customers a phone at no cost, including 5G phones after the first year of the merger, in locations where Verizon currently offers 5G retail services.

· TracFone or Verizon must offer plans with comparable voice, text, and data at the same or a lower price as TracFone currently offers for a total of five years following the close of the transaction.

· All Verizon branded stores must advertise and offer enrolment in the California LifeLine programme.

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