Friday, 30 January 2009

Quore secures deal with Yes Telecom – UK

Yes Telecom, now a service provider owned but operated separately from Vodafone, has made a deal with Quore regarding their products. As part of the deal Wibrain, an ultra mobile PC product, is now available for free with a GBP 30 per month Vodafone data plan.

Samart I-Mobile changes MVNO strategy – Thailand

Samart I-Mobile, a provider of communication and electronic equipment in Thailand, has changed its MVNO strategy by deciding to target provincial markets instead of overseas markets. The company will possibly invest THB 1 billion (USD 28.89 million) for the same. Earlier, I-Mobile had planned to provide MVNO service in those countries where its strategic partner Telekom Malaysia offers mobile services.

According to Thananan Vilailuck, President of Samart I-Mobile, the renewed strategy will help the company in creating a new domestic fixed-revenue stream along with strengthening sales of their Bug (mobile content) services. He added that I-Mobile will provide a cheap mobile tariff plan, bundled with its content service, to target customers in the provincial markets.

Samart I-Mobile plans to negotiate with local operators such as AIS, DTAC and True Move for the purchase of mobile airtime and phone numbers. I-Mobile is expected to launch its service by the end of 2009. I-Mobile aims to sell five million handsets generating THB 12.5 billion (USD 361.90 million) in revenues this year. The company also plans to expand into other geographies such as South America, the Middle East and Western European markets in 2009, with a regional office in Dubai.

Thursday, 29 January 2009

Family Mobile signs up with SecureTrading – UK

SecureTrading, a UK based Internet payment service providers has been contracted by Mobile Partners Group to provide the payment solution for the new website, Family Mobile.

Family Mobile is an MVNO which launched in the UK last year in August 2008 after signing up 3 UK as its carrier host in January of the same year. The service is run in partnership with IKEA and takes advantage of both the IKEA loyalty card holder subscriber base and in store promotions.

Martin Petersen, Managing Director at Mobile Partners Group Commented: "We required a safe, simple and reliable payment system that would be available 24/7 to customers of Mobile Family [Family Mobile]. The SecureTrading Payment Gateway is a proven solution that meets our requirements in terms of customer service, integration and reporting capability."

Jon Prideaux, Deputy CEO of SecureTrading said: "Mobile Partners Group is the latest company to select the SecureTrading Payment Gateway, which is fast becoming the payment solution of choice for e-commerce businesses. We are committed to providing superior service and performance using leading edge technology solutions to meet the precise needs of our customers."

Tracfone blames officials for free phone service for the poor failing – USA

America Movil’s US operation, TracFone, has publicly aired their concerns regarding local officials negative involvement in a scheme to give mobile phones to poor users in regards to an issue with access to the national emergency telephone number, 911.

Jose Fuentes, Director of Government Relations, TracFone Wireless said: "This is an unfortunate situation where those who need our program the most in the greater Philadelphia area are losing out for no good reason. The notion that that there are special E911 technical issues or legal liabilities in the Philadelphia area is, quite simply, preposterous. Other states, cities and counties across the U.S. have weighed these same issues and proceeded to certify our program in order to connect their poorest citizens to the telecommunications system. The only thing that local officials have to certify is that our cell phones have the ability to dial and connect to 911 call centers regardless of activation status or prepaid minutes. That can be tested and proven in a matter of minutes."

TracFone claims that the officials’ involvement is preventing 450,000 needy recipients from receiving a free phone. They have made it clear that the service is working correctly and that those who are now aggrieved should directly contact the officials concerned.

Government set to allow MVNOs in the country – Israel

Ministry of Communications (MoC) of Israel has announced that the country will allow MVNOs to operate in its telecom sector. According to the regulator, the entry of MVNOs will increase the competition in the market and several operators have already expressed their interest in the model.

The MoC has drafted a new regulation in this regard, including the main conditions and requirements for MVNO applicants. The regulator has invited comments from the industry and other relevant parties without specifying any date for the framework’s implementation.

Commenting on the framework, Ariel Attias, Minister of Communications, said: “The entry of additional operators to the mobile sector will change the game and will alter the balance that has prevailed among the companies in the recent years; any step taken to increase the competition in this sector, ultimately assists in reducing prices for the consumer, mainly in the private sector.”

Elephant Talk inks deal with YOUPINIE – Netherlands

YOUPINIE BV has entered into a Heads of Agreement contract with Elephant Talk Communications, a provider of mobile value-added services, for the launch of its MVNO services in the Netherlands. The company is expected to launch its services Q209.

YOUPINIE will involve its members in surveys and other feedback solutions, thereby becoming an interactive MVNO. YOUPINIE will collect and process the information of its members with their permission and will provide relevant marketing feedback to its clients. Additionally, YOUPINIE reports will also be accessible to selected news, media and government organisations for their own purposes. In return, YOUPINIE members will receive a share of the revenues as compensation for the use of their information.

Commenting on the agreement, Martin Zuubier, Chief Technology Officer of Elephant Talk Communications, said: “We are very pleased that YOUPINIE selected our state-of-the-art MVNE Platform to achieve their marketing and communication goals. We believe that Elephant Talk is the best platform available to combine communications technology with the required marketing information analysis engine. Our inventory capabilities will give YOUPINIE the direct throughput required to act as an interactive panel with the ability to communicate anytime, anywhere with its members.”

Commenting on the agreement, Chief Executive Officer of YOUPINIE, added: “Our partnership with Elephant Talk will give us the ability to expand our activities and develop a strong position in the markets where we operate. We are looking forward to launching a full range of innovative services for our clients and prospective clients utilizing the vast possibilities of a mobile network."

With Blyk also planning to launch in the Dutch market both companies could see tough times in 2009 by competing head on.

Boost Mobile to phase out CDMA products – USA

According to FierceWireless, Boost Mobile, an MVNO division of Sprint Nextel, has started phasing out its CDMA-based products. Instead, the company has now shifted its focus towards the iDEN network.

Commenting on the development, Tatum Hawkins, a spokesperson from Boost Mobile, said: “Boost Mobile will still operate, support and service its CDMA-related products, but it will no longer promote them. If customers wish to sign up for CDMA-based services, they may still do so. However, Boost will no longer create new CDMA products and/or services, nor will it add new CDMA phones to its roster of devices.”

TrendCall launches ‘FreeRider’ plan – The Netherlands

Dutch MVNO TrendCall is majoring on the financial crisis by launching a new plan called ‘FreeRider’. The service is aimed at subscribers who receive more calls than what they make. The offer means that for every 2 minutes of received calls the subscribers receives 1 minute of call credit. The service applies to voice, SMS and GPRS usage. The service works by the subscriber receiving a credit of EUR 0.07 per minute for in bound calls which is then set against the outgoing costs.

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Compass plans mobile service launch by March 09 – New Zealand

Compass Communications, a provider of calling and data solutions in New Zealand, plans to launch its mobile service in March this year. The company has entered into an MVNO agreement with Vodafone to utilise its network infrastructure. Compass has started testing its systems with several trial customers live on the service; they are testing the billing and provisioning systems as part of the trial.

Commenting on the development, Karim Hussona, Chief Executive Officer of Compass, said: “Mobile is a new departure and we've got a lot to learn." He added that handset support is one area the company is working on.

Research for the new MVNO Directory shows 3 operators already working as MVNOs in New Zealand.

Kajeet gets new CMO – USA

Mark Pilipczuk has become the new Chief Marketing Officer of Kajeet. The MVNO targets parents with the offer of a safe and parent friendly handset for children.

As his first announcement as CMO, Pilipczuk said: "Kajeet's customers are busy moms who prefer to shop online as it helps them save time and money. Online channels are the most effective way to make sure these moms are aware of Kajeet. Our no-contract pricing, free unlimited Parental Controls, GPS phone locator, and award-winning service are customer benefits that are very attractive to moms and families. Our online business model gives us the flexibility to continually test the marketing mix to give our customers exactly the mix of services that best fit their families' needs."

ASDA registers huge demand for SIM packs after price cut – UK

ASDA Mobile, an MVNO on the Vodafone network in the UK, has registered a ten-fold increase in the sales of its SIM-only prepaid packs after a fall in the prices of its MVNO service. According to Craig Thirkell, Buying Manager at ASDA Mobile, sales figure of the company’s SIM packs in November were almost 45,000.

ASDA launched its service June 2007 and competes with supermarket Tesco directly in terms of the retail based supermarket MVNO market, with the latter having launched in over 5 years ago in partnership with o2 UK.

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Cyfrowy Polsat frames strategy for 2009 – Poland

Cyfrowy Polsat, a leading DTH operator in Poland, which ended 2008 with 2.73 million subscribers, has outlined its strategy for 2009. According to Wirtualne Media, Dominik Libicki, President of Cyfrowy Polsat, has stated that the company is expected to introduce more HD channels and further focus on MVNO operations launched in September 2008.

The company also plans to launch its Internet service and is currently finalising the technology (satellite, BSA and CDMA) for the service.

2008 was certainly the year for MVNO launches in Poland. At least 6 operations were launched and 1 has already launched this year, namely Tu Biedronka. 6 other companies also look to be interested in launching MVNOs this year but with several of these within the financial services sector they may decide that budget is not available.

Blyk set to launch new offerings – UK

Blyk, an ad-funded youth MVNO, has announced changes in its ‘free’ allowance starting February 16, 2009. Under the new offering, members will receive a GBP 15 (USD 20.65) monthly allowance including MMS, data, calls and SMS, with their respective costs as 20p (USD 0.28) per MMS, GBP 1 (USD 1.38) per MB of data, 15p (USD 0.21) per minute for voice and 10p (USD 0.14) per SMS.

Members aged between 16 to 24 years used to receive 217 minutes and 43 SMSs free in lieu of obtaining advertising messages from brands of their choice. According to Antti Ohrling, Chief Executive Officer of Blyk, the decision has been made owing to the numerous requests from its subscribers for a more flexible offering. He added: “We have seen about a 30 per cent jump in requests to join Blyk since we announced this change.”

The move follows suit with other MVNOs looking to upgrade their service offerings to stay competitive with MNOs and super MVNOs such as Virgin Mobile. Subscribers are demanding more and looking to pay less; they expect to have the ability to send MMS and browse networks such as Facebook. Many discount MVNO brands only offering voice and SMS may this year start churning as a result of this effect and lose the higher ARPU users but retain the “emergency phone” subscribers who may top up with GBP 5 (USD 7) twice a year.

Libre Choix advises Government on fourth 3G license – France

Libre Choix, the French MVNO group comprised of firms such as Poweo, Altergaz, ipnotica, Telecom, Gaz de Paris, Adrexo and Tele2 Mobile, has put forward its suggestion that the government should consult MVNOs before awarding the country’s fourth and final 3G license. According to the group, the license should be given to a new player as it would open the market currently captured by three incumbent operators.

The group further stressed that if a new operator is allowed entry in the industry, ‘real competition’ can be induced in the short term through MVNOs. According to the group, distributing the frequency spectrum among existing incumbents would not help in achieving this goal. The group, however, welcomed the move of the government to award the fourth license, as one of the measures to revive the French economy in a week where the country will grind to a halt via a popular national strike.

There are 26 non-MNO mobile offerings already in the French market with all 3 networks (Bouygues Telecom, Orange and SFR) hosting multiple MVNOs. Recent research has also found 5 MVNEs active in the French market providing MVNOs with access to MNOs via their own agreements, with Transatel being one of the most significant.

BT mulls mobile phone market entry – UK

According to the Register, British Telecom (BT) is considering entering the mobile phone market once again, beyond its current data service. In 2001 BT demerged their mobile arm Cellnet, in a bid to raise capital to cut its debt, which then went on to become o2 UK. Then, in 2005, BT tried to introduce a Fixed Mobile Convergence (FMC) service, namely ‘BT Fusion’, under an MVNO partnership with Vodafone. However, the offering failed as it only attracted around 50,000 customers in two years of service. Perhaps the failure was due to the service being more expensive than the UK MNOs’ offerings and certainly a lot more expensive than discount focused MVNOs. Perhaps the failure was also linked to the falling demand for any fixed line voice service due to substitution by mobile, bad customer service experiences with BT leading to churn to NTL and TeleWest (now Virgin Media) and the offering hitting the market too late and being out marketed by the competition.

BT is expected to go for an MVNO set-up once again with T-Mobile and 3, two of the smaller mobile operators in the UK. However, the negotiations are still in the early stages and nothing has been confirmed by the company as yet. BT’s current mobile service is called BT Total Broadband, it is not a voice service, and is hosted on Vodafone’s network.

Virgin Mobile unveils new phone – USA

Virgin Mobile USA has released a new limited edition phone ‘LG Pink Flare’ for its customers in the US. The company will donate USD 5 from the sale of each Pink Flare to Susan G. Komen for the Cure, one of the largest breast cancer organisations in the world. Virgin mobile aims at donate at least USD 150,000 to the organisation, aiding breast cancer research and community health programs.

LG Pink Flare is a simple Clamshell phone, with features such as Bluetooth, two colour displays, mobile web and voice dialling. The instrument costs USD 29.99 and is exclusively available through Best Buy and free of any contract.

Lebara signs distribution deal with Asda and Dextra – UK

Lebara Mobile, an ethnic market MVNO which trades across Europe, has entered into a distribution agreement with Asda to sell Lebara Mobile SIM packs. The Asda deal will use a similar model as with Tesco, whereby the deal was run on a trial basis in around 20 major sites before a full roll out.

The company has entered into a deal with Dextra, the distribution arm of 20:20 Mobile, to supply its products to retail channels. The Dextra deal follows similar distribution agreements with Data Select and Brightstar. Lebara Mobile has also entered into an agreement with high street retailer Superdrug for the sale of airtime in its 915 stores across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Commenting on the agreements, Ratheesan Yoganathan, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Lebara Mobile, said: “We started with a strong investment in marketing to help build that category in Asda through its top initial 20 … biggest stores. That will broaden in time.”

Commenting on the development, Tim Wort, Chief Operating Officer of Lebara Mobile, said: “This is a different category to national prepay, even if it’s the same kind of packaging and payment. It is for a different kind of customer. We are getting to a stage where we are heading rapidly towards a million customers, and you cannot sustain that momentum if you just had a narrow view of distribution."

VERTU plans ‘Club VERTU’ launch – Japan

VERTU, the luxury mobile phone brand owned by Nokia, is planning to launch an exclusive club in Japan which will allow its subscribers exclusive access to various mobile services such as ‘Club VERTU’, which includes a special members-only concierge. Nokia Siemens Networks will be used for the roll out of the hosted MVNO solution.

Commenting on the proposed launch, Tagore Ramoutar, Director of Business Development for Japan & Korea at VERTU, said: “Meeting the needs of customers in this segment requires a specialised approach. VERTU users the world over are discerning individuals who are willing to pay a premium for the right experience. Our success relies on delivering a world class experience that is unmatched. Our greatest priority therefore is providing our customers with new and innovative services, and we will focus our energies on this.”

The partnership with Nokia Siemens Networks will enable VERTU to introduce value-added services without investing in their own software, equipment, people and skills. The company will also benefit from flexible services, manageable business risk and tariffs apart from focusing on sales and marketing rather than telecom operations. In addition, customers will also receive faster, reliable and high quality services. Nokia Siemens Networks hosts MVNO service for VERTU in Japan from its hosting centre in Singapore, capable of serving customers throughout the Asia Pacific region.

EMBARQ Wireless and CenturyTel merger receives shareholder approval – USA

At a special meeting of CenturyTel shareholders in Monroe, La., CenturyTel shareholders approved the issuance of CenturyTel common stock to EMBARQ shareholders in connection with the proposed merger. This proposal was approved by more than 96% of the total votes cast at the meeting by CenturyTel shareholders.

Tom Gerke, EMBARQ Chief Executive Officer, said: "The extremely strong support illustrates shareholder understanding of the value created by this combination. Implementing best practices and best-in-class operational support systems will enhance our customer experience. Expanded networks, knowledge and experience will enhance the combined company's ability to deliver a broad range of products and services. The combined company will strive to be the leading broadband provider in our markets."

EMBARQ currently offers mobile services over Sprint’s network as well as a most other mainstream telecommunications services.

Monday, 26 January 2009

Lebara Mobile introduces plan for Chinese New Year – UK

Lebara Mobile has launched a new plan for the Chinese New Year celebrations. Under the new plan customers will be able to call landline and mobile phones to six destinations including China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Taiwan at half price.

The scheme, which will run from January 26 to February 28, 2009, allows landline calls to China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan for 2p (USD 0.02) per minute; while calls to Indonesia and Malaysia will cost 2.5p (USD 0.03) per minute.

Commenting on the new promotional plan, Tim Wort, Chief Operating Officer of Lebara Mobile, said: “The Chinese New Year is a time when families come together to celebrate, but it’s harder for those who may have friends and family who live abroad. So, we have developed this special promotion specifically to bring together those who are apart at this important time of the year.”

Simyo celebrates its first birthday with new promotions – Spain

Simyo, the Spanish MVNO subsidiary of KPN, is completing one year of its operations on January 29. In order to celebrate this achievement the company has launched various promotions. Customers can acquire a Simyo prepaid card for EUR 1 (USD 1.30), with EUR 5 (USD 6.50) for voice calls. In addition, a bonus of EUR 5 (USD 6.50) will be given for the first and second mobile top-up. Users who take up the company’s 3.5G flat-rate data plan, with up to 5 GB for mobile traffic for a monthly fee of EUR 24.4 (USD 31.70), can purchase a Toshiba G450 USB modem for EUR 59 (USD 76.66).

In order to attract online customers, Simyo have revamped their online store by incorporating more offers, new products and promotions. According to Jochen Doppelhammer, General Director of KPN Spain, the company also plans to launch a flat-rate voice service in 2009.