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

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5 Dec 2022

Norwegian MNO ice has agreed a deal to acquire the subscription base of local MVNO Vipps Mobil. The deal includes 19,000 subscriptions and the transfer will take place in January 2023. Shiraz Abid, Commercial Director of ice, commented: ‘Vipps’ customers are largely made up of people aged 18 to 39 who appreciate simplicity and value for money, which is perfect, because they will also get that from us in ice … Our goal is to create competition in the mobile market, and in order to fight against the big players, we must continue to grow.’ For its part, Vipps – which is a Norwegian mobile payment application designed for smartphone use – intends to focus on its core business.

Over in the US, Bark Technologies has announced a multi-year MVNO agreement which will see T-Mobile US support the launch its new Bark Phone service. The Bark Phone is a Samsung A13 that comes with a number of parental controls built in, including GPS-powered location tracking, call blocking, contact management, and automatic monitoring for texts. The company says that ‘the Bark Phone gives parents unprecedented oversight of their child’s online experience’. Bark notes that its app currently helps to protect nearly six million children at home and in more than 3,300 schools and districts nationwide. The app is also available in South Africa and Australia.

Huge Group, which acquired Tethys Mobile (Virgin Mobile South Africa) earlier this year, has shed light on its future MVNO plans. In its FY22/23 report, the group explains: ‘We have invested in Tethys Mobile, and we intend to change its name to Huge Digital as we position it as a leading provider of software services for digital enablement in the MVNO market … Huge Digital is keenly placed to partner with these branded MVNOs and the mobile networks who will provide them with access.’ Huge Digital aims to launch in early 2023 and will offer branded mobile services ‘to a long list of candidate MVNOs, many of whom have very large existing consumer bases’.

Gazprombank-backed GPB Mobile has launched a new ‘Unlimited’-branded tariff including 5,000 minutes of calls, 5,000 SMS and unlimited data. The service is priced at RUB1,490 (USD24.4) per month, but reduced by 70% for anyone signed up to the ‘Be Together’ loyalty programme. Previously, back in March 2022 the Ministry of Digital Development, Communications & Mass Media (‘Digital Ministry’) issued a recommendation that domestic mobile operators ‘limit’ existing unlimited internet tariffs, noting that: ‘taking into account the shortage of equipment under the sanctions, operators may face objective difficulties in maintaining the pace of network development.’ Major cellcos subsequently stopped taking new subscriptions to various unlimited mobile tariffs by end-March, while also raising average tariffs by around 10%-15% across their ranges.

Finally, software provider Mavenir says it has supplied its cloud-native Packet Gateway (PGW) to PM Factory in the Netherlands, meaning the latter can now elevate its MVNE offering from 2G/3G to 4G VoLTE and VoWiFi solutions.

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Netherlands, Norway, Russia, South Africa, United States, Bark Phone, GPB Mobile (Gazprombank), Huge Telecom, ice, Mavenir, PM Factory, Tethys Mobile (formerly Virgin Mobile), Vipps Mobil

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