Friday, 13 March 2009

New MVNO Zer01 plans unlimited calling and data - USA

A Connecticut based MVNO will offer unlimited voice and data plans for USD 69.95 when the service begins operations in April.

The MVNO will use AT&T’s network although all calls will be routed through its own backbone by having a custom VoIP client preloaded on the handset. This bespoke VoIP client allows Zer01 to bypass any data limits or caps imposed by AT&T. Zer01 will also use custom algorithms to ensure that customers will still be able to use the service when out of 3G and in an EDGE served area.

Zer01 will offer its plans without any long term contracts or commitments and will instead market its plans on a month-to-month basis, initially offering two flat-rate packages. The first will come in at USD 69.99 and will include unlimited domestic and international calling and also unlimited data. The second package will cost USD 79.99 and will offer everything the USD 69.99 package does with the ability to call a further 40 countries across the globe for free.

Zer01 plans to offer a range of Windows Mobile based devices by HTC and other manufacturers at launch and Zer01 will also allow other unlocked Windows Mobile handsets to be used. The MVNO will also seek to develop its custom VoIP client for Android, BlackBerry, Symbian, Java and potentially even for iPhones.

Patni mulls contracts in the MVNO market - India

Patni Computer Systems, an IT services and business solutions provider, is considering systems integration contracts within the MVNO space in India. According to the Hindu Business Line, the company has initiated talks with 3-4 potential players, foreseeing it as another ‘growth engine’ in the domestic telecommunications market.

Commenting on the development, Samvit Raina, Senior Vice President of Patni Computer Systems, said: “We still have to see the actual uptake in India, but are confident that we can bring our experience in working for MVNO clients in the US and Europe, to the Indian market. For instance, we have been working with the UK-based Carphone Warehouse for providing such services. With the market in India now set to open up, we are talking to 3-4 prospective players here. Our service would target both the virtual players and the operators that they tie-up with, and the offerings range from provisioning, network integration, billing integration to customer management, among others.”

Commenting on the market prospects, Raina said: “A vanilla Systems Integration contract in the MVNO market typically tends to be about USD 2-5 million in size. However, we are expecting a lot more volume play in the Indian market and the deal structure could be different compared to the Western markets. So instead of a pure-play systems integration deal, the virtual operator may want to opt for a Mobile Virtual Network Enabler model where he asks us to build the platform and goes for a per-subscriber pricing.”

Consumer Cellular introduces data services - USA

Consumer Cellular, a low cost MVNO operating over the AT&T wireless network, has announced that it will introduce data service plans for all of its customers. The plans will cover web browsing and text and photo messaging.

‘Wireless Web’ will enable customers to browse news sites, view financial information and retrieve weather reports. The plan will also allow users to download ringtones, wallpapers and games to their handsets (in common with most other operators).

Consumer Cellular’s messaging service will permit users to send and receive text and photo messages from their handset.

John Marick, Chief Executive Officer of Consumer Cellular commented: “Many of our customers want simple, easy-to-use phones, but still seek messaging, convenient access to news highlights and the ability to customize their phones. By utilizing the nation’s largest voice and data network, Consumer Cellular’s Wireless Web feature will satisfy our customers’ on-the-go information needs while maintaining our company’s focus on ease of use.”

Although no clear-cut pricing structures were included with the announcement, the web data plan will be offered in a variety of guises. The text and photo messaging plan will be charged on a per use basis or alternatively by purchasing an allowance of messages in advance.

Fastweb announces launch of mobile portal - Italy

Italian telecommunications company Fastweb has introduced its own mobile portal in conjunction with Italian news agency Ansa.

The portal will offer news, TV listings, cinema guides, weather information and access to Fastweb’s webmail. Fastweb’s new portal will be funded by adverts handled by media company Buongiorno.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

TracFone offers SafeLink to residents of Genesee County - USA

TracFone Wireless will extend its US government supported SafeLink Wireless service to over 57,000 low-income households in Genesee County, Michigan. The announcement also includes over 4,000 Shiawassee County homes.

SafeLink Wireless gives eligible households a free handset, access to emergency services and 68 free minutes a month for one year. Customers can also augment their free minutes with top up cards (USD 3 for 15 minutes or USD 10 for 50 minutes) when their 68 free minutes have been used up.

Jose Fuentes, Director of Government Relations for TracFone Wireless, said: "This is one of the few times we can tell customers that free does mean free.” Fuentes went on to say that most families that earn less than USD 25,000 would qualify and an individual making USD 16,000 or less would usually qualify..

SafeLink Wireless has been introduced in New York and Detroit in recent months and Fuentes hinted that the service would soon be extended to other areas of Michigan.

MVNO sales to increase in a sluggish Dutch market - The Netherlands

According to the Netherlands based publisher Telecompaper, the Netherlands’ mobile services market reported a 1 percent increase in 2008 revenues, to a total of EUR 6.37 billion (USD 8.10 billion), mainly attributed to the 20.9 percent annual growth in text messaging and data services. The revenue growth declined from an annual growth rate of 5 percent in 2007, owing to continued price pressure on voice services and sluggish growth in non-voice revenues, especially messaging. SIM-only and MVNO sales are expected to increase as more customers start looking for low priced options.

Lebara Mobile celebrates St Patrick’s Day with promotions - UK

Lebara Mobile, the International calling MVNO, announced calls to Irish landlines for 4p per minute and a competition prize of 25 free minutes to call Ireland on St. Patrick’s Day.

Commenting on the event, Tim Wort, Lebara’s Chief Operating Officer, said: “Our low-cost UK calls and texts are perfect for those who are trying to meet up with friends at one of the St.Patrick’s Day celebrations throughout the UK. For the many Irish living in the UK, our low international call charges make it the ideal way to keep in touch with friends and family in Ireland and elsewhere.”

DoT and TRAI disagree over multiple network MVNOs - India

The Indian telecommunications regulator (TRAI) has declined to endorse the decision of India’s Department of Telecommunications (DoT) to allow MVNOs to use more than one network operator to increase coverage. Instead TRAI wishes to force MVNOs to partner with only one network.

A spokesperson from TRAI said: “The mobile number portability scenario in India is already complex due to [the] large number of existing players, and the situation would become further complex if multiple parenting is allowed. Calculation of spectrum charges also becomes difficult if virtual operators tie up with multiple existing telcos as each service provider has a different slab for calculating these levies (based on the number of customers they have).”

TRAI has also rejected DoT’s proposal that existing operators, such as Bharti Airtel, Reliance Communications and others, should not be allowed to share their network with more than two MVNOs. The regulator feels that such a move will act as a hindrance towards the growth of MVNOs in the country.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Lebara Mobile modifies plan and offers free international texts - The Netherlands

Netherlands based low-cost MVNO Lebara Mobile has announced that it intends to alter its Lebara Family plan.

The plan originally saw Lebara Family customers paying 18 cents for 40 minutes of usage. The revamped Lebara Family plan will see users paying 24 cents for an hour’s usage and 12 cents per minutes thereafter.

Lebara Mobile also began its free international texting campaign, offering free international text messages until the 31st of March.

Japan Communications’ data services launch on DoCoMo network - Japan

Japan Communications will introduce its data communication service "Doccica" using NTT DoCoMo’s 3G network "Foma", combined with public wireless LAN access points. To be launched by the end of March, subscribers will be able to use the service at a charge of JPY 10 (USD 0.1) per minute. Users will have to purchase a USB device for JPY 14,800 (USD 150.1), including a commission fee of JPY 5,000 (USD 50.70) for the first 500 minutes. The time-based fee is applicable on the Foma network and users can pay extra charges online to stay connected to the service.

The service also allows subscribers to roam on other public wireless LAN services, such as Hot Spot, BB Mobile Point, Airport-Net and FreeSpot. To use this service, users will have to pay JPY 300 (USD 3.04) for 30 minutes of usage per day.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Spanish regulator cancels Carrefour MVNO licence – Spain

The Spanish telecommunications regulator Comision del Mercado de las Telecommunicaciones (CMT) has stripped Carrefour Movil of its MVNO licence after it failed to renew its licence within the given time limits. A further eight MVNOs – including Metro Red and GlobalCom – have also been affected by CMT’s actions.

According to media reports CMT has cancelled just fewer than 500 mobile licences across the country, in response to MVNOs failure to adhere to the legal requirements of their licences.

CMT are looking to establish fresh procedures to allow the licence to be re-issued to Carrefour Movil in due course.

Indian Mobile market to boom with the entry of MVNOs - India

According to research house Informa Telecoms & Media, the entry of MVNOs is likely to create a boom in the Indian Mobile Market, with estimated mobile broadband revenues to reach USD 3.9 billion by 2013. Although the Indian government’s decision to allow MVNOs would help GSM providers without 3G license to offer WCDMA services, the opportunities for GSM MVNOs are limited, due to intense competition in the segment.

James Moore, Research Analyst at Informa, said: "The limit on WCDMA spectrum means that many GSM operators will need to follow this route if they are to offer WCDMA services, assuming the WCDMA operators allow them to use their network".

The success of Virgin Mobile, which operates under a franchise agreement with Tata Teleservices, is an indication of the Indian market’s potential. Informa predicts that by 2013, the Asia Pacific region, including India, will be the fourth largest MVNO market, with MVNO subscribers expected to increase from 14.3 million in 2008 to 20.4 million.

Monday, 9 March 2009

Santander plans MVNO offering – Spain

According to El Economista, Banco Santander, the leading Spanish bank, is planning to launch its MVNO operations in Spain, with immediate roll-out of mobile phone trials. Santander will provide an MVNO offering under the brand ‘Habla Facil’ and will use Orange’s network infrastructure.

Renna MVNO launch imminent – Oman

Omani telecommunications company Majan Telecommunications has completed thousands of test calls and text messages in anticipation of its MVNO launch next month under the brand name Renna. Renna is planning to sell its own SIM cards and recharge cards through its own network of branded stores and a nationwide dealer network.

“We are working with the world's best companies that share our vision of transforming the telecommunications industry in Oman, enabling us to deliver our promise to customers. Our value-added approach is unlike anything available in the market today which entails our own tariff plans tailored to cover specific and segmented needs.” Stated Niklas Nielsen, Chief Executive Officer of Renna.

Renna has partnered with HP and Convergys for its intelligent network and billing services respectively and will operate its services on the Oman Mobile network, who have installed high-capacity data lines from Oman Mobile to Renna’s hosting facility.

Lycamobile appoints new commercial director – UK

Lycamobile has announced that John Weir will be joining the UK based MVNO as its new commercial director. The international calling MVNO has created the position for Weir, who will be responsible for its global market development, partnerships and relationships with its partners.

Weir left South Africa’s third largest mobile network, Cell C, to join Lycamobile. Whilst at Cell C Weir was responsible for the development of revenue streams, strategy formulation and business relations. His past positions saw him as Chief Executive Officer of M-Tel and board advisor to Virgin Mobile South Africa.

“This is a significant senior appointment and John will play a vital role in helping us to grow and prosper from our existing operator relationships. With over 20 years of global mobile sector experience, he’s the right man for this strategically important position.” said Milind Kangle, Chief Executive Officer of Lycamobile.

Sunday, 8 March 2009

FRiENDi mobile begins pre-book facility – Oman

FRiENDi mobile announced the availability of a pre-book facility to its customers. The new facility will enable customers to book their preferred mobile number, free of charge, starting from March 9.

Commenting on the pre-book launch, Antti Arponen, Chief Executive Officer of FRiENDi mobile, said: “Mobile users prefer numbers that are easy to remember, so we wanted to give future customers the power of choice before we start selling SIM cards to [the] general public. Whether it's your birthday, lucky number, favourite footballer's number, parts of your existing mobile number, or any other special number, you will hopefully find it available with FRiENDi mobile, and it's free of charge.”

Customers can log on to FRiENDi mobile’s website to book their number online. Alternatively, they can visit any of the outlets from Lulu Hypermarkets (Darsait, Bausher, Salalah & Sohar), Muscat City Centre, KM Trading, City Cinema (Al Nasr) & Star Cinema (Ruwi) and City Cinema (Shatti) to book their numbers.