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

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25 Apr 2022

Vietnamese fintech company Digilife Vietnam Digital Services Co., part of VNPAY, has been issued an MVNO licence, and will become the country’s fourth virtual operator. According to the Hanoi Times: ‘Digilife must strictly comply with the terms of the method of service provision, a form of payment of charges, connection and lease of channels, telecommunications resources, charges, quality of service, deployment of licences and other obligations’. Previous MVNO licensees are Indochina Telecom (Itel), Mobicast (Reddi) and ASIM Telecom (Local).

On 7 April SurgePays, a US technology/telecoms company focused on the underbanked and underserved, announced the acquisition of Torch Wireless, which provides services as part of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP). The transaction was described as ‘a cash and limited royalties deal’. Commenting on the acquisition, SurgePays chairman and CEO Brian Cox stated: ‘Acquiring Torch Wireless will allow SurgePays to open the entire country for our mobile broadband service. With the acquisition, SurgePays’ participation as a provider within the ACP programme will go from 14 states to 50 states.’

In a separate development, SurgePays has announced that its SurgePhone Wireless MVNO passed the 100,000 subscriptions milestone. Mr Cox noted: ‘We have surpassed 100,000 subscribers since last August and expect the next 100,000 subscribers to sign up over a much shorter timeframe.’ The MVNO – which launched in August 2021 – uses the AT&T Communications and T-Mobile US networks.

Sticking with the US, Texas-based SPYR, a technology company whose subsidiary, Applied Magix develops and resells Apple ecosystem-compatible products in the smart home and connected car markets, has announced it is considering entering the MVNO market with special mobile phone plans exclusively supporting iPhone users. Applied Magix CEO Dr. Harald Zink commented: ‘There are a lot of great carriers out there providing mobile services, but for most of them it feels like their Apple customers are an afterthought, which is frustrating if you’re an Apple user. We feel that we can do better – of course, we are not just going to jump into this. We are carefully exploring and evaluating the available MVNO offerings, as well as exploring and evaluating the market space, to see what customers want.’

Over in Canada, the government has dealt a fresh blow to the ambitions of the country’s would-be MVNOs, including Full MVNO licensee Data On Tap (dotmobile), which sought to challenge a previous decision to restrict MVNO access to regional mobile operators. Last year Data On Tap launched a petition against the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission’s (CRTC’s) 15 April 2021 decision, which required MNOs Bell, Rogers, Telus and SaskTel to provide MVNO access – but only to regional operators that own spectrum and facilities. In a press release dated 14 April 2022, Francois-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, explained: ‘In response, the Governor in Council has carefully considered the petition and reached a position that supports competition and affordability. A primary consideration in this review was that expanding MVNO access to providers that do not possess spectrum and have not invested in facilities would undermine the work of smaller regional providers that have already invested substantially to increase competition. Based on this review, the Governor in Council has declined to vary the CRTC’s decision.’

Finally, local press reports in Spain have indicated that Telefonica Espana (Movistar) is set to deactivate its Tuenti sub-brand on 1 June 2022. Mobile-only subscriptions will be migrated to Movistar’s ‘Inicia’ tariff, while mobile/fibre subscriptions will be transferred to the O2 sub-brand.

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