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

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24 Apr 2023

UK MVNO Honest Mobile, which was launched by Andy Aitken and Josh Milhill in 2019, has landed GBP3 million (USD3.7 million) worth of funding in a round led by dmg ventures, alongside Wayra, Ascension, Focal and angel investors Mikko Salovaara (Accel Scout), Lewis Hemens (Atomico Scout), Chris Mairs and Guillaume-Henri Huon. Honest Mobile, which operates using the Three UK network, says its customers’ bills gets cheaper every month thanks to a loyalty discount. The MVNO currently has 4,000 active SIMs using its virtual network. Andy Aitken, co-founder and CEO of Honest Mobile, commented: ‘We’ve built Honest on a shoestring so far, and are excited to bring on board world-class investors and a capital injection to help us show the other mobile networks in the UK that there’s a better way to do business.’

Grupo Televisa has launched its fourth MVNO, Sky Celular. Operated via its Sky Mexico pay-TV unit, the new player operates over the AT&T Mexico network. Subscribers will receive access to Sky Sports and 20 other Sky TV channels. TeleGeography notes that Televisa already offers MVNO connectivity under the Izzi Mobile (launched in June 2020), Blue Celular (October 2022) and Blue Telecomm (April 2018) brands, although the latter is a purely fixed wireless proposition.

Google Fi has been rebranded as Google Fi Wireless, meaning the MVNO is now on its third brand since its launch back in April 2015. The virtual operator – which piggybacks on the T-Mobile US network – originally launched as Project Fi. To coincide with the new name, Google Fi Wireless has repositioned itself to focus on ‘families and value’. The MVNO notes: ‘We know how important it is for families to keep their connection safe, and that’s why all plans come with features such as spam blocking and location sharing for more peace of mind. Starting today and rolling out over the coming weeks, we’re sharing a refreshed family-centric design of our app, making it easier to manage your family’s digital safety settings, such as ensuring your child can only be called or texted by trusted numbers, and giving you the ability to add new members, discover helpful features and more, all in one place.’

MTN South Africa has signed up more than 30 MVNO partners since launching its MVNO platform in 2020, the telco’s wholesale executive Quintus de Beer has informed ITWeb. De Beer told the publication: ‘Our primary mandate is to take the assets that we’ve got on the network and find ways to monetise them through third parties … An MVNO is not a silver bullet for everybody. People should not just see it as the next thing – it does need planning; you need to understand your value proposition because it’s not just only about price.’

TeleSemana reports that National Communications Agency (Ente Nacional de Comunicaciones, ENACOM) is considering introducing new regulations to smooth the way for Buenos Aires-based cableco TeleCentro to enter the MVNO sector, with the article noting ‘no one wants to do business with Telecentro’. TeleGeography notes that TeleCentro received an MVNO licence back in May 2016, but has yet to launch. In 2017 the cableco reportedly lodged a bid for one of the concessions included in the 2500MHz-2690MHz (2.5GHz) tender process, but came away empty handed.

Finally, sources have told the New York Post that the Department of Justice’s (DoJ’s) antitrust division is weighing a possible lawsuit to block the USD1.35 billion acquisition of Mint Mobile by T-Mobile US, citing a consolidation trend that risks higher prices for mobile customers. The sources said that the DoJ intends to target the Mint takeover as it is a high-profile celebrity deal; Hollywood star Ryan Reynolds owns a 20%-25% stake in Mint. Last month, T-Mobile has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Ka’ena Corporation and its subsidiaries Mint Mobile, Ultra Mobile and Plum in a cash and stock deal.

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