The South African Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) industry is gaining traction and attracting big players such as Lycamobile and Washirika Holdings with juicy pockets to compete aggressively.
A MVNO uses the mobile network infrastructure provided by a mobile network operator like Cell C but offers its own products and services, including billing and fulfilment on top of that network. So, a MVNO does everything a mobile operator does, except running a network. Hence it is a “virtual” mobile network operator.
The services of MVNOs such as FNB Connect are becoming an alternative to your traditional mobile phone companies, such as Vodacom, MTN, Telkom Mobile and Cell C.
Cell C is currently the only mobile network operator in South Africa, who has opened their network to MVNO partner. It provides all the necessary support, expertise, infrastructure, and platforms to allow MVNOs to operate.
The growth of the market may also attract a new player, Washirika Holdings a venture capital firm led by ex-Vodacom executive Romeo Kumalo, and Absa marketing director and SuperSport CEO Happy Ntshingila. Last September, Kumalo told Techcentral that he plans to launch a mobile virtual network operator in South Africa.
Here are 11 MVNOs shaping the South African telecoms landscape:
In June 2015 FNB became the first bank in South Africa to launch a MVNO through a partnership with Cell C, South Africa’s mobile phone operator.
The take-up of the FNB Connect service has been nothing short of extraordinary and at the beginning of November 2015, FNB announced that it had over 100 000 active SIMs.
FNB Connect continued to retain and attract new customers and by June 2017 it has registered more than 500 000 active customers since its launch in June 2015.
It has sold 487 000 smart devices as well as 75 000 ConeXis A1 and X1 own branded smartphones.
FNB Connect is fully integrated into the digital banking systems such as Online Banking and the FNB App. Customers can check the activity on each of the SIM cards with details of each transaction made in real time.
Lycamobile, one of the world’s largest mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs), has created a South African dedicated website that offers its high-quality data and voice services.
TechCentral first reported in March that Lycamobile would launch in South Africa, after Cell C CEO Jose Dos Santos revealed that the UK-headquartered company would launch an MVNO in the local market.
Lycamobile, which was founded in 2006, provides low-cost, high-quality data and voice services to over 15 million customers across 23 countries.
The website provides services such as free Lyca to Lyca Minutes and SMS when you top-up with as little as R10 or as much as R200. Fair usage policy applies for the FREE Lycamobile to Lycamobile calls.
There are no contracts to access Lycamobile services.
Virgin Mobile South Africa was launched on 24 June 2006, making it Africa’s first and only MVNO.
It was launched as a joint venture between Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group and Cell C.
In February 2011, Cell C sold its stake to Virgin Group and Calico Investments, after which Virgin Group assumed a controlling stake.
Mr Price is the first retailer network in SA to launch a MVNO.
Mr Price has come a long way since launching its mobile virtual network operator, which runs on a Cell C’s network since 2014.
Three years later, thousands of customers are buying its cellular products and has diversified into financial services.
However, MR Price is only known for its affordable and quality clothes.
In the year to end April 2017, Mr Prices’ cellular and financial services division reported a 12.2% increase in operating profit to R387 million.
Hello Mobile is a leading mobile network provider in South Africa, offering the cheapest local and International calling rates.
Hello Mobile is a partnership between Telestream Communications and Cell C, designed to deliver the cheapest and most convenient international and local call rates to foreigners working in South Africa.
me&you Mobile is South Africa’s first SIM-only MVNO.
me&you mobile has partnered with Cell C and utilises their infrastructure.
It also roams on the Vodacom network. Based on signal strength, and your phone’s settings, you will automatically switch between Cell C and Vodacom – this will guarantee the best connectivity.
Last May, Bok Radio, a Cape Town-based Afrikaans radio station, launched a MVNO called BokSel.
It uses Cell C’s network and caters for Afrikaans speakers.
It also offers month-to-month packages.
Afrihost Mobile was launched on 19 January 2016, promising to offer customers the “best contract-free data, SMS and voice call rates”.
In 2016 June, MTN disposed of its 50.02% shareholding in Afrihost.
The mobile phone operator said this was in line with its strategy of focusing on core business and pursuing opportunities in relevant adjacent businesses.
In September 2016, Prophet Shepherd Bushiri (PSB) launched a PSB network.
The PSB Ministries claims to have around two million followers.
The company was enabled by local telecoms firm MVN-X, which also enabled me&you and MRP Mobile and BokSel.
Cell C is the underlying network for PSB Network.
A maverick entrepreneur by nature, Iain Buchan started The Unlimited in 1994 with a team of five.
The company offers various services such as death cover and accidental death cover, plus R150 airtime every month to its customers to make more calls, surf the internet and chat on WhatsApp.
The company uses Cell C’s network.
iSmart, one of several successful businesses within the Digicall Group, has been operating in the mobile industry within South Africa since 2004.
Initially, the business white-labelled outbound campaigns on behalf of the defunct Autopage and MTN.
More recently iSmart has been responsible for running SmartMobile campaigns, including, but not limited to, the launch of a MVNO.
SmartMobile runs on Cell C’s network.
It claims to provide affordable cellular services and handsets. However, its website doesn’t provide the kind of services on offer.