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

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7 Nov 2022

The Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) has awarded an MVNO licence to Dolphin Telecoms, which hopes to become the country’s first successful virtual operator. Dolphin has reportedly secured a wholesale arrangement with one of Zimbabwe’s three mobile network operators (MNOs), though the identity of the partner has not yet been disclosed. Nyasha Charumbira, managing director of Dolphin Telecoms, commented: ‘We have already secured an agreement with one mobile network operator, and our model aims to create a new layer of efficiency in the virtualisation space. Infrastructure sharing has been underutilised because of a failure to establish win-win models, but this is a problem we believe we have solved, as evidenced by the agreement we have secured. The company is said to have invested USD15 million ahead of its planned launch. TechZim clarifies that three MVNOs have actually been licensed, although the other two parties have yet to be named. The update was disclosed by POTRAZ director general Dr. Gift Machengete. The report notes that the fee for a Light MVNO is USD5,000 for a 20-year licence, rising to USD50,000 for a Full MVNO. By contrast, an MNO concession costs around USD137 million.

Sticking with Africa, Senegalese MVNO Sirius Telecoms (which trades as Promobile), has been awarded substantial damages by the Commercial Court, bringing an end to its five-year impasse with MNO Free Mobile. As per local press reports, Free has been ordered to pay Promobile XOF5 billion (USD7.45 million). The would-be MVNO received a licence in June 2017 and duly signed a wholesale contract with Tigo Senegal. However, the host provider was sold to Saga Africa Holdings, and the new owner refused to comply with the pre-existing wholesale contract. Promobile went on to sign a separate agreement with Orange Senegal in August 2020 and staged a commercial launch the following month. Promobile served a total of 382,115 MVNO subscriptions as of 30 June 2022.

Over in the US, MobileX, the new MVNO from Boost Mobile founder Peter Adderton, has entered its Beta trial. The company’s website notes: ‘If you’re interested in joining us as a MobileX Beta tester, just download the app for your mobile device. It’s that easy. As we continue to refine and improve our platform and app we’ll need all the feedback we can get. Will the service be perfect at this phase? Probably not. But it’s your chance help shape a new and better way to get mobile access.’ The newcomer inked a wholesale contract with Verizon Wireless back in October 2021 and went on to sign a merger agreement with industrial monitoring firm Electro-Sensors in June 2022.

DISH Network has reported a net increase of 1,000 mobile subscriptions in the third quarter of 2022, compared to a net decrease of 121,000 in 3Q21. The company closed 3Q22 with 8.007 million MVNO subscriptions. Notably, during the third quarter of 2022 T-Mobile US transferred approximately 139,000 mobile subscriptions to DISH, representing all Boost Mobile-branded customers of former Sprint affiliates Shentel and Swiftel, as well as Boost-branded customers who were previously part of the California Public Utilities Commission ‘CARE’ programme.

Altice USA has reported that its Optimum Mobile MVNO unit served approximately 236,000 mobile subscriptions as of 30 September 2022, representing quarterly net additions of 5,000. The MVNO has now achieved 5.5% penetration of the company’s residential fixed broadband subscription base. Quarterly mobile revenue was reported at USD22.837 million, up from USD20.456 million in 3Q21.

Finally, TracFone Wireless has shed further light on reports relating to the reported discontinuation of a number of its sub-brands. Following rumours that Net10, Page Plus Cellular and GoSmart were being phased out from 1 November, a spokesperson for TracFone told Fierce Wireless: ‘TracFone Wireless is streamlining the brands we proactively market to remain competitive and meet the needs of today’s value-conscious consumers. In compliance with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) order related to the Verizon acquisition, both existing and new customers can enrol in plans for the Net10, Page Plus and GoSmart brands until November 2024 (California customers will be able to take advantage of these plans until November 2026).’

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