Standard Bank has finally confirmed one of the telecommunications industry’s worst-kept secrets: it will launch a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO), becoming the second major bank in South Africa to do so.
TechCentral first reported in February that Standard Bank is building an MVNO, revealing at the time that it had hired former Virgin Mobile South Africa CEO Steve Bailey to its executive team.
Standard Bank spokesman Ross Linstrom said in an e-mail in response to questions from TechCentral: “Yes, we are launching an MVNO. We expect to launch soon.”
Linstrom said the bank is not able to provide additional information about its plans, such as the MVNO’s name, the launch date or which operator’s network it plans to use.
However, it’s understood that MTN, Vodacom and Cell C have all been involved in bidding for the contract. Market talk is that the deal may have gone to Cell C, still the only network operator that has launched MVNOs on its network to date, though this could not immediately be confirmed.
MVNOs piggyback on existing networks’ infrastructure, but typically provide their own backend billing and customer support.
Standard Bank is poised to become the second bank in South Africa to launch an MVNO, following the lead of FNB, which launched its FNB Connect service in 2015. Other MVNOs include Virgin Mobile and Mr Price Mobile.
Change of plan
The bank’s plans represent an about-turn from its previous views about launching an MVNO.
In an interview with TechCentral in 2016, Standard Bank’s chief executive for personal and business banking, Peter Schlebusch, said that although the bank had looked at the MVNO model “extensively” it had decided against it.
“There are a lot of competent players in the telecoms space already,” Schlebusch said at the time. “FNB, clearly, has taken a different view, and they have their own reasons.”
He said the bank wanted to focus on delivering a “fantastic customer experience in banking and financial services”, rather than being side-tracked by a venture into telecoms. — © 2018 NewsCentral Media