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

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9 Jan 2023

Telia Norway has announced that it has signed a ‘long-term collaboration agreement’ with Fjordkraft, Norway’s largest energy supplier, which will see the latter relaunch its Fjordkraft Mobil MVNO via the Telia network. Fjordkraft’s mobile subscriptions will be transferred to Telia’s infrastructure during the second quarter of 2023. At the same time, a new Fjordkraft Mobil entity will be created, which will be 61%-owned by the energy firm and 39%-owned by Telia. Discussing the tie-up, Fjordkraft CEO Magnar Oyhovden commented: ‘Fjordkraft’s mobile business has grown to become the largest of the mobile providers without its own network. Together with Telia, we will be able to develop this business further with more attractive offers and services for mobile customers.’ Fjordkraft launched mobile services over the Telenor Norge network in April 2017. In 2021 Fjordkraft acquired the mobile subscription base belonging to fellow MVNO Skymobil.

Elsewhere in Europe, Swiss MVNO mobilezone has agreed a takeover deal for rival virtual operator Digital Republic, which was founded in 2016 and focuses on the IoT sector. Post-closing, Zurich-based Digital Republic will continue to be managed by founders Ali Soy and Marco Arnold as a division of mobilezone. The financial terms of the deal have not been disclosed.

Over in Brazil, 73 regional ISPs have teamed up to launch an MVNO cooperative called Ta Telecom. The new MVNO will utilise the TIM Brasil network for connectivity and SIM cards will be distributed via a total of 1,600 retail branches belonging to the various ISPs. Interested ISPs not already involved with the project are invited to contact the MVNO via its website to register their interest. Interestingly, TeleSintese reports that the consortium has its roots in Iniciativa 5G Brasil, which was founded to bid on 5G frequencies in 2021, only to sit out the country’s multi-band spectrum auction.

US cable operator Cox Communications has announced that its Cox Mobile MVNO, which was soft-launched in selected markets in August 2022, has now gone live across the cableco’s 18-state footprint. A launch event took place at the 2023 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas last week, where it was confirmed that the MVNO is piggybacking on the Verizon Wireless 5G network. Mark Greatrex, president of Cox Communications, commented: ‘The convergence of wired and mobile communications has never been more important. Customers recognise Cox as a reliable provider of connectivity, so introducing a mobile phone offering was a natural extension of our services.’

Sticking with the US, satellite TV provider-turned-mobile operator DISH Network has moved to temper media speculation regarding the future of its Republic Wireless brand. Responding to a query by Fierce Wireless, the company stated: ‘Republic Wireless is still in operation and remains a valued brand for DISH’s retail wireless business.’ DISH closed its acquisition of Republic Wireless on 1 May 2021, gaining roughly 200,000 MVNO subscriptions in the process; the MVNO was rebranded Republic Wireless by DISH in May 2022. The MVNO first launched back in 2012.

Polish MVNO Red Bull Mobile has confirmed that its existing wholesale arrangement with P4 (Play) has been abruptly terminated. The MVNO was launched back in 2011, and was understood to be a joint venture between Red Bull and Play. As per the company website, Red Bull is keen to re-enter the MVNO sector, and urges subscribers to register their contact details if they want to be kept informed of its ‘new offer’.

In Russia, Tinkoff Mobile has reportedly added connectivity from Mobile TeleSystems (MTS) to its initial Tele2-based proposition, as it seeks to expand its coverage options. ComNews reports that the new wholesale agreement has allowed Tinkoff to extend the availability of its MVNO to Amur, Astrakhan, Nizhny Novgorod, Trans-Baikal, Stavropol, Khabarovsk, Nenets Autonomous Okrug, Chukotka Autonomous Okrug, Kabardino-Balkarian Republic, Karachay-Cherkess Autonomous Oblast, Chechen Republic, Bashkortostan, Dagestan, Sakha, North Ossetia, Alania, Ingushetia and Kalmykia.

Finally, the South Korean government is aiming to reduce household telecoms bills by reducing the wholesale prices that domestic MNOs can charge budget MVNOs. On 22 December 2022 the Ministry of Science and ICT (MSIT) unveiled its ‘User Protection and Market Revitalisation Plan for Sustainable Growth of Affordable Phone’, confirming that – in line with its volume-based system – wholesale data prices have been slashed by 19.8% and wholesale voice prices have been cut by 14.6%. In addition, MNO trio SK Telecom, KT and LG Uplus have all been ordered to withdraw from the pre-paid sector.

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