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


19 Mar 2018

Namibia is set to become the latest African market to introduce MVNOs, news daily The Namibian reports. Telecom Namibia is said to be in the process of finalising plans to host virtual operators on its 3G and LTEnetworks, and will initially extend wholesale access to local ISP MTN Business Namibia and long-term licence holder Demshi Investment Holdings. Theo Klein, Telecom’s managing director, said that a number of licensees have approached the telco to host them, noting: ‘We are working on this model to ensure that we make our network available to other, smaller telecommunication licence holders. We, however, want to ensure that the model will be in line with regulations’. Werner Shilunga, Demshi Investment Holdings’ owner, told the newspaper that Demshi has been in discussions with Telecom for close to three years, and expects to achieve a commercial launch within six months, using the ‘082’ prefix.

Russian MVNO VKmobile is going to be shut down due to disappointing take-up, despite only launching in July 2017. VKmobile was integrated with online social media network VKontakte, itself indirectly owned by MegaFon via its 63.8% stake in Group. Commercial director Vlad Wolfson was quoted by TelecomDaily explaining that ‘as a standalone brand, this MVNO operator did not live up to our expectations. It became clear that VKmobile will not develop at the rate we want.’

Also in Russia, online financial services provider Tinkoff Bank plans to invest RUB1 billion (USD17.5 million) in its MVNO Tinkoff Mobile by the end of 2019, as it seeks to grow its business. The figure was disclosed to TelecomDaily by Ilya Pisemskiy, the bank’s financial director. Tinkoff Mobile was launched in December 2017 as a Full MVNO, and operates over the Tele2 Russia network.

Sticking with eastern Europe, Poland has a new MVNO in the form of Lodz-based Otvarta, which has positioned itself as a patriotic, Polish-owned company. The virtual operator’s website asserts: ‘We know how you live and it is not easy. You need a good, cheap subscription … We give work to your neighbours and pay taxes in Poland. Because of these taxes, roads are built in your city, pavements, playgrounds and schools. By choosing Otvarta, you support the Polish economy.’ The MVNO piggybacks on the network of locally-owned Plus, rather than using one of the country’s internationally-owned MNOs.

Over in Canada, Bell has extended its ‘budget-conscious’ Lucky Mobile pre-paid band to residents of Manitoba and Saskatchewan, following its launch in Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia in December last year. Lucky Mobile SIM cards can be purchased in branches of Walmart, Wireless Wave, TBooth Wireless, Wireless etc and Visions Electronics.

French MVNO group Euro Information Telecom (EI Telecom), which is majority-owned by French bank Credit Mutuel-CIC, has announced the acquisition of local mobile virtual network enabler (MVNESisteer. EI Telecom operates a number of French MVNOs, including Auchan TelecomNRJ MobileCIC Mobile and Credit Mutuel Mobile.

Finally, Spanish MVNO Digi Mobil, which is owned by Romanian cable group Romania Cable Systems (RCS&RDS), has reportedly signed an agreement with network partner Telefonica Espana (Movistar) to gain wholesale access to its fibre-optic network. The virtual operator, which targets the Romanian population in Spain, claimed 896,000 subscribers at end-December 2017.

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Namibian black-owned firms enter mobile telecoms

Desie Heita Windhoek-Profile Technologies and Demshi Investment Holdings are two black-owned Namibian firms set to enter Namibia’s largely monopolistic mobile network industry from July this year, at a time when the largest operator, MTC, is tangled in a web resulting from a scramble over its ownership. The timing of their arrival in the market coincides with the urgency with which the government finalised the acquisition of the MTC minority shareholding from Samba Luxco, which is facing immediate liquidation in Europe and other markets in which it operates. Individual shareholders in two new market entrants were this week loud in their insistence that they are not window dressing for foreign companies and that they are bona fide entrepreneurs who have been active in the telecom market for strategic investments for the last three to five years. Their arrival has coincided with the push by the regulators to break the monopoly in the mobile telecom market. Both the Communication Regulatory Authority of Namibia (CRAN) and the Namibian Competition Commission (NaCC) protested against the sale of Samba shares in MTC to Namibia Post and Telecommunication Holdings (NPTH) – the state-owned shareholder of both MTC and Telecom’s TN Mobile. NaCC had it rejection overruled by the trade ministry whose chief concerns were the protection of MTC as an asset and its shares – since Samba is facing liquidation – and did not want MTC shares entangled in the liquidation process. CRAN only acquiesced after receiving assurances and support from the trade ministry that 29 percent of MTC shares would within 12 months be floated on the local stock exchange as one of the several conditions. The two entrants are however optimistic that the two state-owned mobile telecoms pose no serious threat to their soon-to-be-rolled-out networks. “We will paint Namibia yellow,” says Vaino Nghipondoka, who as the executive chairman of Profile Investment Holdings, which owns Profile Technologies, is the chairperson of MTN Namibia. Werner Shilunga says Demshi will place emphasis on providing tailor-made innovative products or innovative value-added service. “We would naturally place emphasis on highly technical skills which can constantly develop new products that will appeal to our tech-savvy generation,” says Shilunga. With an air of insouciance, Nghipondoka points out that contrary to the debate around state monopoly in the mobile telecommunications market, it has been the government paving the way to have new private players. He mentions the gazetting of sharing telecom infrastructure, currently owned by NPTH entities, and the number of portables, which CRAN announced last month is in the final stages of finalisation. “Personally I do not think it is monopoly per se. Government has long ago taken a position to open up [the market] to new players. It is up to us, individuals and business people, to compete with these state-owned and partly state-owned entities in the market,” says Nghipondoka. Eyes are now set on how competition would unfold. Especially when the new operators are set to utilise state-owned entities’ infrastructure and backbone for their services roll-out. NPTH has made it known that TN Mobile, a subsidiary of Telecom Namibia, has entered into a relationship with MTN Namibia to expand its mobile virtual network operator services (MVNO), when it comes in the market in June or July this year. Demshi Investments would also be operating on Telecom’s MVNO. Telecom is said to have chosen MVNE South Africa to set up the platform where Demshi and MTN will integrate into the Telecom network. “Me and team are currently reviewing the term sheet and if it reflects how we foresee the relationship between Demshi and Telecom to be in order to make the MVNO a success, then the term sheet will be out of the way by next week,” Shilunga said last week. Further, the arrangement between TN Mobile and MTN Namibia would see MTN utilise the network of Telecom Namibia for a three-year period. NPTH contends that the arrangement between MTN and TN Mobile would ensure that TN Mobile grows its mobile subscriptions beyond 50 percent each year for the next three years. Meanwhile, the trade ministry, which is now headed by Tjekero Tweya, overturned the NaCC’s rejection of the transfer of MTC’s 30 percent minority shares from Samba to NPTH through a merger. New Era understands that the shares were transferred to NPTH at a price that is close to the market valuation but which did not include massive profits to Samba’s shareholders. Tweya also approved the merger on condition that MTC shareholding transformation will change within 12 months, with NPTH to hold only 51 percent, while the Government Institutions Pension Fund is set to get 20 percent, and the rest are to be floated on the NSX for public participation. It is the same conditions approved by CRAN, only that the regulator asked that MTC is to provide CRAN with progress reports every second month on how far are they in meeting all the conditions. 
 New Era Reporter 
 2018-03-19 09:21:19 1 years ago

Demshi and Kometsi enter into partnership for Botswana mobile business

Staff Reporter WINDHOEK – Botswana-based Kometsi Telecommunications and Namibian-based Demshi Investment Holdings have agreed to enter into a partnership for the establishment of a telecommunications business that is ultimately expected to lead to the establishment of a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) or similar business in Botswana. By signing the recent Letter of Intent, both parties indicated their mutual commitment to enter into a partnership and jointly setting up and launching the telecommunications business. “This Letter of Intent therefore sets out the terms and conditions upon which the partnership between Kometsi Telecommunications and Demshi Investment Holdings Ltd shall be constituted,” reads a statement by Demshi. Kometsi Telecommunications, a private company registered in Botswana, has acquired a telecommunications license, which was awarded to Business Solutions Consultants in 2007 by the Botswana Telecommunications Authority. Kometsi Telecommunications intends to launch mobile telecommunications services through an MVNO or any appropriate Botswana Telecommunications Regulator approved model. Demshi Investment Holdings is a private company registered in Namibia and is currently in the process of launching an MVNO in Namibia on the Telecom Namibia network. Demshi intends to rollout MVNO’s or any other similar telecommunications regulator approved business model in southern Africa commencing with Botswana. 
 New Era Reporter 
 2018-05-31 11:11:40 1 years ago

Namibia seeks nationwide Wi-Fi access

By Martynas Tovarovas, Wi-Fi NOW Staff Writer

Internet access via mobile broadband is exceedingly expensive for many Africans – we’ve reported on the issue here. Now an ambitious entrepreneur in the south-western African country of Namibia is taking matters into his own hands with a plan to deploy nationwide Wi-Fi-based Internet access. 

A public access Wi-Fi pilot project in Namibia’s capital Windhoek is proving successful, increasing the likelihood that Namibians may soon be accessing the Internet for free or at rock-bottom prices. Demshi Investment Holdings is in the process of deploying fast and affordable Wi-Fi access all over the country, starting with the capital and expanding into smaller cities and towns.

The plan is to fully cover Windhoek by the end of 2019 followed by coastal towns Walvis Bay and Swakopmund in 2020. Finally, the cities of Oshakti and Ondangwa will get Wi-Fi services in the beginning of 2021. Covering the rest of the country will be highly dependent on the project’s financial standing and the prospective success of public Wi-Fi in the previously mentioned cities, says Werner Shilunga, owner and Managing Director of Demshi Investment Holdings.

“We are currently looking for various technology partners to come onboard for this exciting project and to help make Demshi’s goal of access to affordable, reliable, and fast Internet to all Namibians a reality,” says Werner Shilunga.

Free Wi-Fi experiment

Installing free Wi-Fi along Independence Avenue in Windhoek, Namibia

Residents of Windhoek have been enjoying free Wi-Fi on Independence Avenue since the beginning of November 2018. The network stretches up to 1.5 kilometres along the road and covers parks, malls, government buildings, restaurants, and cafes on its route. All of 2.2 Mbps of free Wi-Fi will be available until the end of January 2019 when the pilot project ends.

“People were excited to hear that there was to be free Wi-Fi along Independence Avenue, which is one of the busiest streets in Windhoek. Due to high current data prices and the poor quality of Internet services, the free Wi-Fi comes as a relief for hundreds of people frequenting Independence Avenue, hence the excitement when we began installing Wi-Fi in the street,” says Werner Shilunga.

The company has contracted local experts Tel-Com System Namibia for the WiFi network rollout. The technology and equipment providers for the pilot project are Hong Kong-based Altai Technologies (for the access points) and Sweden-based Repeatit (for point-to-point backhaul radios).

Not a free service

Demshi Investment Holdings has yet to turn a profit from the project. They intend first to demonstrate their ability to provide quality Wi-Fi for free. Once the project is over the company intends to introduce commercial services by selling Wi-Fi access vouchers.

The company says it intends to cater to a variety of needs  by offering a suite of affordable data plans – from smaller daily or weekly bundles to monthly or yearly deals that offer unlimited access. Certain locations – such as parks or buses – will however continue to serve up free Wi-Fi services.


Demshi inks agreement with Telecom

Staff Reporter Windhoek & Demshi Investment Holdings has just signed “a term sheet agreement” with Telecom Namibia, which will see Demshi becoming the first Namibian mobile virtual network operator. A mobile virtual network operator, largely referred to as MVNO, is a wireless mobile communication service provider that does not own a wireless network infrastructure but uses others’ infrastructure to provide its services to customers, much like Cell C mobile operator in South Africa. The owner of Demshi Investment Holdings, Werner Shilunga, told New Era that the next step is to set up a steering committee and technical and operations’ management committee in the coming days, which will comprise of both Demshi and Telecom designated staff. “Demshi shall be the chair of the steering committee. A project charter shall be set up very soon which will set out the roles and responsibilities of each party, deliverables and timelines to be met before launch of the MVNO and most importantly for the conclusion of the detailed wholesale commercial agreement to be finalised between Telecom and Demshi,” said Shilunga. He added that the wholesale commercial agreement would be the definitive detailed guiding agreement between Demshi and Telecom. This step would allow Demshi to roll out its mobile network services and products by June this year. Shilunga says he currently owns Demshi but he intends to bring on board “various Namibian private institutional partners for funding purposes and in the near future list the entity on the Namibia Stock Exchange so that the public can have an opportunity to own a stake in what would be the best mobile telecommunication operator in Namibia”. Demshi is the second wholly privately owned mobile network operator vying to enter the market, with the other being Profile Technologies, which acquired 30 percent shareholding in MTN Namibia, a subsidiary of South Africa’s MTN group. Profile Technologies and Demshi Investment Holdings are two black-owned Namibian firms set to enter Namibia’s largely monopolistic mobile network industry from July this year, at a time when the largest operator, MTC, is tangled in a web resulting from a scramble over its ownership. Shilunga says Demshi is currently engaging foreign international brand partners to come board, especially those with a presence in Southern Africa and are willing to expand their brand presence in Namibia. “This will enable them to cater for their visiting subscribers in Namibia as well Namibian subscribers visiting countries where the brand partner has presence,” he said. As of the services and products to be offered, Shilunga says discussions would soon commence with the various banking entities for collaboration in mobile banking and mobile payment products. “The convergence between mobile and banking is inevitable and Demshi as MVNO is well positioned to advance mobile banking and mobile payment to its clients, thereby further assisting with financial inclusion in Namibia,” he said. “Demshi intends to make your cellphone more than just a mobile device – our tailor-made value-added services (VAS) will cut across entertainment, lifestyle and banking thereby making the 082 the best mobile operator in Namibia coupled with an excellent customer service and unmatched customer experience,” said Shilunga. He said Demshi would embark on a recruitment process soon and “our aim is to attract young, innovative and highly technical individuals with a disruptive mentality – the mobile telecommunication industry needs to be disrupted and 082 will be the platform to do it.” The two privately owned companies want to give competition to MTC, the now wholly owned state-owned subsidiary, as well as Telecom Namibia’s mobile network outfit, TN Mobile, another state-owned entity. Both MTC and TN Mobile are owned by the state through the Namibia Post and Telecommunication Holdings company (NPTH). NPTH has received strict mandate from the country’s regulatory authorities, Communication Regulatory Authority of Namibia (CRAN) and the Namibian Competition Commission (NaCC) that it is to ensure that 29 percent of MTC shares are floated on the Namibian Stock Exchange by the end of this financial year. Further, NPTH was told that it must make sure that it only holds 51 percent in MTC, while the Government Institutions Pension Fund is set to get 20 percent. Demshi and Profile have previously told New Era that they are optimistic that the two state-owned mobile telecoms pose no serious threat to their soon-to-be-rolled-out networks. Businessman Vaino Nghipondoka owns Profile Investment Holdings, which owns Profile Technologies. Nghipondoka is the chairperson of MTN Namibia. 
 New Era Reporter 
 2018-04-11 09:14:10 1 years ago

Botswana: Kometsi Telecommunications and Demshi Investment Holdings Launch Telecoms Joint Venture

(Ecofin Agency) – Kometsi Telecommunications, based in Botswana, and Demshi Investment Holdings, based in Namibia, have entered into a partnership agreement for the creation of a joint venture that will act as a virtual mobile network operator ( MVNO) in Botswana.

Through this collaboration, the two companies want to position themselves on the local telecom market played by Mascom, Botswana Telecommunications Corp and Orange Botswana, and still rich in business opportunities.

The signing of Demshi Investment Holdings’ partnership with Kometsi Telecommunications is in line with Namibia’s ambitions to deploy in Africa as a virtual mobile network operator.

Before Botswana, it was in Namibia that the company first expressed its desire to conquer telecommunications. It is currently in negotiation with Telecom Namibia to enter this telecom market via the same model of partnership.

According to Werner Shilunga, managing director of Demshi Investment Holdings, as an MVNO, the company will focus on high-potential market segments. “The goal of Demshi is penetrating aggressively a specific market segment and, hopefully, capture a large percentage of this specific segment with innovative mobile offerings and world class customer service.” , A- he stressed.