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

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11 Jul 2022

Johannesburg-based Huge Group has reached a deal to acquire the remaining assets belonging to former MVNO Virgin Mobile South Africa, which is now known as Tethys Mobile. The acquired technology will be used to support the launch of a new MVNE business. The name Tethys will be changed to Huge Digital Enablement once the deal has been concluded, although due diligence of Tethys still needs to take place. Huge Group stated: ‘Over the past 16 years, Tethys has created a sophisticated technical and operational capability linked to this software and technology that will allow the company to provide a platform-as-a-service (PaaS) to organisations that aspire to provide MVNO services.’ Virgin Mobile, which was South Africa’s first ever MVNO, was placed into ‘business rescue’ in September 2020 after running into financial difficulties, and went on to shut down in September 2021, two months ahead of schedule.

The cut-price sale of Roman Abramovich-backed MVNO group Truphone has been halted by the UK government amid a National Security and Investment Act probe into the deal. According to Sky News, officials at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) have issued an interim order to block the purchase of Truphone’s assets by the ‘preferred bidder’, German entrepreneur Hakan Koc. The report notes that Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has already signed off on the decision. City sources told Sky News that Truphone has ‘an embryonic remote SIM provisioning contract’ with BT Group, which may have triggered concerns in relation to the deal. However, Mr Koc and his fellow acquirer, Pyrros Koussios, are prepared to exclude that particular contract from the final deal. As previously reported by MVNO Monday, Truphone – which is owned by Abramovich and his business partners, Alexander Abramov and Alexander Frolov – is being sold for a nominal fee of just GBP1 (USD1.25), after sanctions imposed on the billionaire oligarch by UK authorities cast doubts over Truphone’s ability to remain operational.

Sticking with the UK, Leeds-based B2B player Tango Networks has signed an agreement with BT Wholesale to use the EE network to deliver best-in-class mobile unified communications to its UK-based business users. Andrew Bale, Tango Networks’ Executive Vice President, commented: ‘Consumer-oriented use cases, features and pricing models have dominated the development of the mobile communications industry. That all changes with Tango Extend, a mobile network built for business and designed to be controlled by businesses.’ The agreement also enables Tango Networks’ channel partners to offer business mobile services via the EE network.

JT IoT, the Jersey-based global IoT player backed by Perwyn, has acquired Top Connect, an international MVNO and global roaming provider based in Tallinn, Estonia. The acquisition will ‘accelerate JT IoT’s plan to build a stronger global IoT ecosystem and to expand into new markets and use cases’. The merged business will serve over 500 enterprises and governmental organisations across the globe and will manage over ten million IoT connections.

Finally, France has a new MVNO called YouPrice, which operates over the 4G and 5G networks of Orange and SFR. It offers adjustable packages, where the customer only pays for what he consumes. In an interview with Allo Forfait, Lucas Hermann, Digital Communications Manager at YouPrice, clarified that the new service went live in May and is backed by France Numerique.

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Estonia, France, Jersey, South Africa, United Kingdom, BT Group (incl. Openreach), Huge Telecom, JT IoT, Tango Networks UK, Tethys Mobile (formerly Virgin Mobile), Top Connect, Truphone (UK), Truphone Group, YouPrice