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

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20 Mar 2023

T-Mobile US has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Ka’ena Corporation and its subsidiaries Mint Mobile, Ultra Mobile and Plum. Following the deal’s close, Mint’s founders David Glickman and Rizwan Kassim will remain at T-Mobile to manage the brands, which will generally operate as a separate business unit. Further, T-Mobile notes that minority shareholder Ryan Reynolds will continue in his creative role on behalf of Mint. T-Mobile will pay up to a maximum of USD1.35 billion in a combination of 39% cash and 61% stock to acquire Ka’ena, although the actual price paid will be based upon Ka’ena’s performance during certain periods before and after the closing. The price is also subject to working capital adjustments and other contractual reserves. The transaction is subject to the satisfaction of closing conditions and is expected to close later this year. TeleGeography notes that Mint Mobile was founded in 2015 as Mint SIM and rebranded as Mint Mobile on 1 May 2018. Hollywood star Ryan Reynolds went on to acquire an unknown stake in the MVNO in November 2019; the actor’s shareholding has been estimated at 20%-25%. Plum, meanwhile, is a mobile virtual network enabler (MVNE); its name is derived from the words ‘Platform Leveraging Ultra Mobile’.

Sticking with the US, tech entrepreneur Adam Lyons is planning to launch an MVNO, as a precursor to deploying a decentralised wireless (DeWi) network, Light Reading reports. Under the brand Really Lyons recently launched a price comparison website for MNOs/MVNOs and the next step will be a Really-branded virtual operator. ‘There are some things in the works,’ he told the telecoms site.

Over in Brazil, global connectivity provider UPIX Networks is considering entering the MVNO sector. Attending Capacity LATAM in Sao Paulo, COO and co-founder Douglas Oda told MobileTime that he is currently in discussions with two MVNEs, one of which utilises the Vivo network, and another which works with TIM Brasil. UPIX is an independent neutral network operator with a 10,000km fibre network that covers nine countries.

Three UK has published its full-year results for the year ended 31 December 2022, revealing that its sub-brand SMARTY saw its user base grow by 33% year-on-year, ending 2022 with 734,000 subscriptions. Post year-end, SMARTY launched a new ‘social tariff’, which is available to an estimated 4.2 million households by providing access to a GBP12 (USD14.5) per month plan with unlimited 5G data, calls and texts.

Finally, Circles Australia (Circles.Life) has paid an AUD253,080 (USD168,152) infringement notice after the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) found large-scale breaches of rules intended to protect the safety of Australians. An ACMA investigation found that Circles.Life failed to provide customer information to the Integrated Public Number Database (IPND) on more than 60,000 occasions between January and August 2022. The IPND is used by Triple Zero (the Australian emergency telephone line) to help locate people in an emergency, for the Emergency Alert Service to warn Australians of emergencies like flood or bushfire, and to assist law enforcement activities. ACMA chair Nerida O’Loughlin commented: ‘It is alarming that Circles.Life had no idea that its customer information was not being uploaded until contacted by the ACMA.’

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Australia, Brazil, United Kingdom, United States, Circles.Life Australia, Mint Mobile, Plum, Really, SMARTY, T-Mobile US, Ultra Mobile, UPIX Networks

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