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

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15 May 2023

Danish energy firm OK has exited the MVNO sector after selling its OK Mobil unit to network host Telenor Denmark. Going forward, OK Mobil will be merged with Telenor’s CBB Mobil sub-brand. The deal did not require approval from the Danish Competition Authority. Existing OK SIM cards can still be used, and tariffs will remain unchanged.

Elsewhere in Scandinavia, Norway’s ice acquired 10,000 subscriptions from local MVNO Release late last month. The transaction represents ice’s second notable MVNO deal in recent months, following its acquisition of 19,000 customers from Vipps Mobil in January 2023. For its part, Release is discontinuing its mobile business to focus on selling used tech hardware.

Mexico’s Federal Telecommunications Institute (Instituto Federal de Telecomunicaciones, IFT) has issued a preliminary data report for the fourth quarter of 2022, indicating that Bodega Aurrera Internet y Telefonia (BAIT) – the MVNO launched by Latin American supermarket chain Walmart de Mexico y Centroamerica in June 2020 is now the country’s largest MVNO. BAIT ended 2022 with 5.598 million subscriptions, comfortably ahead of FreedomPop Mexico (1.485 million), Virgin Mobile Mexico (819,200) and Grupo Salinas-backed Oui Movil (773,191).

Sticking with Mexico, Grupo Modelo, the Mexican brewery giant behind the popular Modelo, Pacifico and Corona brands, has teamed up with local MVNO Diri Telecomunicaciones to launch Buzz Movil. The new player utilises the Red Compartida network for connectivity. Top-ups are available at 30,000 retail branches across the country, including Walmart and 7Eleven outlets.

Over in the US, Astound Broadband, the sixth largest cableco by subscriptions, has partnered with Reach to launch Astound Mobile. The new MVNO will be targeted at the four million homes passed by Astound’s RCN, Grande Communications, Wave Broadband and enTouch Systems ISP units. The MVNO is expected to piggyback on the T-Mobile US network, while a commercial launch date has not yet been announced.

Sticking with the US, Hawaii-based Mobi has announced that it has signed an MVNO agreement with T-Mobile US, effectively confirming earlier rumours. The deal has been described as ‘an exclusive, multi-year relationship that enables Mobi customers to tap into the power of the nationwide T-Mobile network both at home throughout the islands and across the mainland United States’. Mobi has deployed a cloud-native mobile core in conjunction with Working Group Two (WG2) and Amazon Web Services (AWS).

Gary Koerper, SVP of Emerging Technology at Charter Communications (Spectrum), has informed Fierce Wireless that Charter and fellow cableco-turned-MVNO Comast (Xfinity) now allow each other’s MVNO users to connect to their respective Wi-Fi networks. Mr Koerper told the news site: ‘Spectrum Mobile customers can access the Xfinity Wi-Fi network, having the benefit of mobile offload. Xfinity customers can access the Spectrum Wi-Fi network, as well … Charter, Comcast and our partners work behind the scenes to ensure that phones connect seamlessly and securely to our respective Wi-Fi networks.’

DISH Network, which reported 7.913 million MVNO subscriptions as of 31 March 2023, has provided an update on its potential mobile spin-off. In its most recent quarterly results briefing, the company noted: ‘We regularly evaluate ways to enhance our business. As part of this process, we are in regular dialogue with interested parties who may assist us in accomplishing our goals, including ongoing conversations with CONX Corp. (an entity partially owned by Charles W. Ergen, our chairman) regarding a transaction involving our retail wireless business unit. There can be no assurance that these discussions will lead to a transaction nor as to the structure or terms of any such transaction.’

SUMA Movil, a subsidiary of Grupo Ingenium Tecnologi, has extended its MVNE business to Portugal, via the launch of SUMA Movil Portugal. The company hopes to enable its first Portuguese partners later this year. To date, the company has launched more than 100 MVNOs across its four markets (Spain, Colombia, Chile and Peru), of which 40 are in Latin America. A further ten LatAm MVNOs are poised to go live this year.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has set the final rules for MVNO access, two years after formulating its initial policy. Companies now have 90 days to negotiate MVNO access agreements. The CRTC expects that regional competitors will start selling plans in parts of Canada they do not currently serve shortly after these agreements are in place.

GorodMobile has gone live in Moscow, targeting users of the city’s public transport network. The MVNO uses the Tele2 Russia network for connectivity and SIM cards can be purchased in a bundle, alongside a ‘Troika’ public transport card.

French B2B player Legos has launched an MVNO in the UK, in association with Gamma Communications. Gamma, it should be noted, offers MVNO services via the Three UK network. The MVNO went live late last month.

Elsewhere, Swiss MVNO digitec connect has been rebranded as Galaxus Mobile. The MVNO operates over the Sunrise network and provides 5G access.

Finally, Uganda is poised to get a new MVNO, in the form of Talkio Mobile. The Kampala-based newcomer has launched its website, but has not yet disclosed a network host or a switch-on date.

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