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

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3 Oct 2022

South African financial services group Capitec has launched a new MVNO called Capitec Connect, joining rival banks Standard Bank and FNB in the virtual operator market. Announcing the launch, Capitec Connect stated: ‘Just as Capitec became a challenger within banking, we are now questioning the norms for pre-paid mobile data and airtime.’ The new player utilises the Cell C network for connectivity.

Also in South Africa, The Foschini Group (TFG) has launched an MVNO called TFG Connect that piggybacks on the MTN South Africa network. SIMs are available at all TFG stores, including: Foschini, Markham, Exact and Jet.

Over in Brazil, Rico Telecom has launched in Santarem, Para over the TIM Brasil network. According to Valor Economico, the new player is backed by B Holding, which owns the Casa do Celular handset franchise. Hugo Casasanta Garcia, CEO of B Holding, indicated that the company will be providing initial investment of BRL1 million (USD185,000), with a view to signing up 100,000 subscriptions within 24 months. The MVNO will initially target states in the north and north-east before expanding nationwide.

Sticking with Brazil, the National Telecommunications Agency (Agencia Nacional de Telecomunicacoes, Anatel) has approved TIM Brasil’s proposed wholesale product reference (oferta de referencia de produto de atacado, ORPA). The agency found no objections to the proposal, which includes 5G and IoT access, and the decision was signed off by competition superintendent Jose Borges on 26 September. The measure is one of the remedies applied in relation to the takeover of Oi Movel by TIM Brasil and rivals Claro and Vivo.

In related news, regional operator Algar Telecom has signed a wholesale contract with TIM Brasil after Anatel launched an investigation into the arrangement that was in place with former network partner Claro Brasil. The watchdog established that Algar had violated competition rules by using the Claro network for ‘permanent roaming’ access in regions where it had not been licensed to operate. Algar was using the network to support its M2M/IoT services. The new deal with TIM was signed on 30 September.

Poland has a new MVNO called Fonia. The Warsaw-based virtual operator has unveiled a ‘freemium’ proposition, that grants users free access to telecoms services in exchange for watching advertisements. Fonia piggybacks on the Polkomtel (Plus) network. Note: users must pay a one-off activation fee of PLN49 (USD9.89).

International MVNA/MVNE Plintron has confirmed that it received an MVNO licence from the Department of Telecommunications (Subsecretaria de Telecomunicaciones, Subtel) in April 2022 and is on course to launch before the end of the year. In order to facilitate its business model Plintron has sealed a wholesale deal with Movistar Chile. Subhashree Radhakrishnan, vice-chairman and co-founder, Plintron Group, commented: ‘The entry of Plintron to the Chile market will catalyse the Chilean MVNO ecosystem and enable Chilean brands to extend into mobile services and provide a holistic customer experience and generate additional revenues.’

Los Angeles-based MVNO Fonus, which currently offers unlimited data in North America (US/Canada/Mexico), has revealed plans to expand its focus globally in the coming months, by adding roaming options in Europe, Asia, Latin America and Oceania. Founder and CEO Simon Tian commented: ‘In North America, customers have been forced to endure exorbitant prices, frequent service interruptions and segmented offerings from companies with monopolistic practices … The company’s aim is to provide customers with an affordable and simplified telecom service alternative across the globe.’

Finally, Cogeco of Canada is mulling the launch of an MVNO service as it seeks to enhance its product bundles. With MVNO access a hot topic in Canada, Cogeco chief executive Philippe Jette told The Globe and Mail: ‘We are asking for reasonable rates. High enough that the party that leases is incentivised to build their own network, not to lease forever, but low enough to support competition and affordability, through the price for consumers.’

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