Saturday, 5 September 2009

NTT DoCoMo MVNO talk – USA

Japan Today published an article claiming that NTT DoCoMo is interested in fully launching its brand in the USA as an MVNO. The article quotes anonymous sources who claim to be in a privileged position on the matter.

The company’s US interests already have relationships with AT&T and T-Mobile so speculation is that the potential service would be run over these networks. Launching a network of its own is also unlikely due to the size of the country and the cost of building out a nationwide 3G network.

The potential service is expected to be a mobile Internet MVNO which would of course allow for voice services using mobile VoIP; if the service does not offer traditional voice and text services.

Notably Helio was launched onto the US mobile market back in May 2006 as a data focused MVNO which would provide all kinds of features for its users. The service was a joint venture of SK Telecom and EarthLink, both out of Asia hoping for success in North America. The service failed to attract enough users and after a painfully protracted failure it was eventually sold off to Virgin Mobile.

NTT DoCoMo will compete with KDDI America as a Japanese MNO operating as an MVNO in the US marketplace.

Tune Talk already looking for international expansion – Singapore

Tune Talk has been live in Malaysia for less than 1 month and has already signed up over 20,000 subscribers according to local reports from The Star. Following on from this success Tune Talk has been in negotiations with Singapore’s three MNOs and a deal has reportedly been agreed for a launch over M1’s network during Q2 2010.

Regarding the Malaysian MVNO, Jason Lo, Chief Executive Officer of Tune Talk is quoted saying: “Our target is to have 3,000 to 5,000 new activations a day”. The company has averaged around 1,100 sign ups a day since 19th August. Lo reaffirmed that the MVNO is on track for 1 million subscribers by August 2010.

Tune Talk in Malaysia is 38% owned by its network partner Celcom. No details have yet been released as to the terms of the Singapore agreement with M1, or if this is an agreement with Tune Talk Malaysia as a parent company in Singapore or whether it will be a tie up between M1 and Tune Ventures.

Friday, 4 September 2009

Trident Telekom – Hong Kong

Defunct MVNO Trident Telekom, whose service has been suspended for many months following a dispute with its MNO partner, finally accepted its closure and returned their MVNO licence to the regulator this week.

Trident was the first company to launch as an MVNO in Hong Kong. The operator exits a marketplace with a 160% mobile penetration rate, being an average of 1.6 phones per every person in the country.

Surf.red’s laptops for EUR 1 – Germany

Mobile Internet MVNO Surf.red is selling netbooks for EUR 1 to subscribers who take up a 24 month contract. Subscriptions cost EUR 39.95 per month. Those who chose to forego the Lenevo laptop can receive a monthly rate of EUR 24.95.

Surf.red operates across Vodafone’s network as a UMTS service with HSPA capable speeds where the network permits this. The service comes with a monthly 5GB data transfer allowance after which the service speed is throttled down.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Virgin Mobile looking for another franchise – India

Still not an “MVNO”, only a franchise agreement, Virgin Mobile India has expressed and interest to MTNL in their franchise agreement for the MTNL 3G network in Mumbai and Delhi.

MTNL is majority state owned operator which invited bids to a franchise agreement back in July. The agreement will see a 3rd party attempt to sell subscriptions to MTNL’s 3G network prior to the private sector MNOs launching their services.

Kuldip Singh, Technical Director at MTNL has been quoted by Business Line of India as stating: “Virgin Mobile and Spice Group have bid for our 3G franchise deal. We will finalise the bidder(s) in a month”.

Spice Group recently sold its MNO operation to Idea Cellular. Virgin Mobile India currently operates a reseller / franchise agreement with Tata Teleservices. Virgin launched their own mobile operation selling services to subscribers which they retain as their subscribers back in March 2008. The two companies clearly point out that this is not an MVNO as minute of use are not sold and although contested by other Indian MNOs the regulator sided with Tata and Virgin.

TracFone continues SafeLink Wireless roll out into Wisconsin – USA

A government program called SafeLink Wireless has been hotly rolled out across the USA by TracFone Wireless. The MVNO has for several months been providing handsets and 60 minutes per month free calling time to low income households. This month has seen the service enter Wisconsin where over half a million eligible people could benefit from the scheme.

After the first year clients will have to buy their own top ups but in comparison to monthly fixed line rentals the subscribers should stand to financially benefit. The program may see TracFone successfully balloon its pre-pay market but this outcome is unknown until the free minutes run out and tops ups are taken up or the phones are left without credit.

PosteMobile deploys Accenture fraud prevention – Italy

Accenture teamed with HP to develop business solutions for PosteMobile. The solutions provide security for customers’ financial transactions, deliver a high level of fraud protection, and enable mobile handsets to transfer money, payments, and make purchases.

The fraud-management and dealer-performance solutions that Accenture and HP are implementing are designed to provide PosteMobile with a variety of benefits. These include increased precision in detecting fraud and other abnormal behaviour, through user-defined key performance indicators, with threshold alarming; enhanced case management capabilities, with escalation, notification-management and advanced reporting capabilities; detailed reports and user-friendly graphic displays for a comprehensive view of customers’ and dealers’ activity and trends; and advanced security and audit capabilities to reduce internal errors and intentional misconduct.

Paola Painelli, Fraud Manager at PosteMobile said: “The work Accenture and HP are doing around the HP CentralView Fraud Risk Management and Dealer Performance Audit solutions are important building blocks in our effort to maintain leadership as a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) in Italy … We now have real-time monitoring and predictive analytics solutions that enable us to respond quickly to unusual behaviour, either from the network or from our dealers, which dramatically improve our business performance and make us more competitive.”

PosteMobile launched mobile services back in November 2007 after it signed an MVNO agreement with Vodafone, March 2007. The MVNO is part of the Poste Italiane Group, which forms the Italian postal service.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

New CFO for Lycamobile Group – Europe

Peter Ward has been appointed the new Chief Finance Officer for Lycamobile. Ward’s career has seen him at O2 UK and then Tesco Mobile UK holding senior financial positions within both operations.

Ward will be responsible for leading the financial management of the Lycamobile brand including spearheading mergers and acquisitions, cost and financial management, corporate governance and leading MVNO contract negotiations.

Milind Kangle, Chief Executive Officer for the Lycamobile Group said: "Peter’s addition to the leadership team will accelerate Lycamobile’s momentum to the global leader in the international calling mobile business. We will continue to make the right investments in people to ensure that Lycamobile continues to benefit from industry best practices and achieve its mission of being a benchmark MVNO business model."

Lycamobile is a pre-pay MVNO targeting ethnic markets within multiple countries across Europe. The company has an aggressive roll out presence when entering new markets and builds up significant vendor relationships in the areas it targets. The company announced its 1 millionth UK subscriber in July.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Vertu Club launches – Japan

Vertu Club has launched services for the Vertu MVNO. The service is marketed as a luxury mobile network operator and costs YEN 52,500 per month or YEN 577,500 for an annual subscription.

Handsets available via Vertu are hand built in the UK but cost in addition to the subscription charge. As part of the service Vertu will provide a 24/7 concierge service over the phone which is designed to make life easier for its Japanese users. Handsets will soon be on sale in the first high street location for Vertu, a shop in the Nihonbashi Mitsukoshi department store.

Vertu is an MVNO owned by Nokia and operated over NTT DoCoMo. The service was launched in response to Nokia’s failure to gain market share within Japan’s handset market with its traditional handsets. The hand built luxury devices and all in service may provide Nokia with a profitable but niche success in this highly technological island.

MNOs being pushed down the MVNO route – South Korea

In an effort to push down voice call prices within the South Korean mobile market, the regulator has brought in three new rules for MNOs to adhere to. The most important for opening up the market is the adoption of MVNOs. The regulator, The Korean Communications Commission (KCC), is looking for MNOs to start partnering with MVNOs sooner rather than later.

As is the experience in most other countries, the regulator asking does not always mean action. The partnering of MVNOs comes about from an MNO having spare spectrum and not being the market leader. The number one operator has the most to lose from price competition which leads to falling ARPU and churn from them to the MVNOs. The MNOs with the least market share and low ARPUs stand to gain from filling up their spectrum with MVNOs and seeing a revenue stream from the action.

According to recent research within Blycroft’s MNO Directory 2009, South Korea as at Q408 had over 45 million mobile subscribers across just 3 MNOs. LGT, 3rd placed MNO, had just 18% of the market share as at Q408 and based upon the above would be the first port of call for those looking to partner for an MVNO.

Monday, 31 August 2009

Mobisud France sold to SFR – France

French newspaper, La Tribune, reports that SFR has bought out the remainder of Mobisud France from Maroc Telecom. The deal has been valued at EUR 1 and is really a house keeping exercise within Vivendi, which owns significant interests in both SFR and Maroc Telecom.

The Belgium operation remains unaffected and it is still a Maroc Telecom subsidiary.

Mobisud France is an MVNO which targets north-Africans living in France. The MVNO operates over the SFR network. SFR is the 2nd largest MNO in France with a 36% market share at Q408 (figures taken from Blycroft’s MNO Directory 2009).

Industry reports suggest that Mobisud France may now be merged into SFR and the brand closed down. With reportedly 60,000 subscribers the service made a EUR 19,000,000 loss in 2008, compared to 100,000 subscribers in Belgium.

AT&T interested in own MVNO – India

The Hindu Times has reported that AT&T has shown interest in starting its own MVNO in India. AT&T has reportedly spoken with multiple MNOs across the country and is now only waiting on regulatory approval / advice before moving forward.

V.S. Gopinath, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of AT&T Global Network Services India is quoted stating: “We would be very interested anywhere in the world to pursue MVNO options because of client demand.”

The Indian mobile market could soon come alive with MVNO activity but a country wide MVNO may be more difficult to build due to infrastructure limitations with too much demand being placed on the existing base station network. MNOs in India are keen to not see their ARPU levels fall which has been the case in other countries when MVNOs have launched. At this stage a price war is unlikely to help Indian mobile consumers since their service levels are likely to fall as a result, especially within the more rural calling circles which the country is divided into.