JSE-listed retail group Mr Price has become the first South African retailer to launch a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO), TechCentral can reveal. It’s only the second company in the country to launch an MVNO after Virgin Mobile.
Mr Price says it’s not keen to talk yet about its strategy behind its MVNO, called MRP Mobile, though it has confirmed that it has launched services commercially to its customers.
MVNOs leverage third-party operators’ network infrastructure to provide services to consumers under their own brands.
Although popular in the US, Europe and Asia, MVNOs have not taken off in South Africa. The only MVNO to launch commercial services to date has been Virgin Mobile. That may be changing now, with the launch of Mr Price’s MVNO and amid mounting speculation that a big bank is planning to launch one in the coming months, too.
Former Virgin Mobile South Africa boss Steve Bailey is a driving force behind MRP Mobile. His new business, mobile virtual network enabler (MVNE) business MVN-X, a subsidiary of Durban-based Ignition Group, is providing the platform for MRP Mobile. The companies are piggybacking off Cell C’s network.
TechCentral revealed in May that Bailey was working with a large South African retailer to launch South Africa’s second MVNO. Red Bull Mobile is often incorrectly labelled as an MVNO, but is simply a brand licensee, with everything behind the scenes managed by Cell C.
Until now, Virgin Mobile — which also uses Cell C’s network –has had the MVNO space to itself. It was founded in 2006, with Cell C as a 50% shareholder and Richard Branson’s Virgin Group holding the remaining 50%. Cell C has since sold its stake.
Bailey’s new business provides a full range of MVNE services to virtual operators. It has developed complex billing and customer relationship management systems.
In addition, the company provides an inbound call centre, along with procurement and logistics facilities.
Bailey told TechCentral in May that the cellular market in South Africa is worth about R100bn/year. “It’s a big market, and there are a number of niche opportunities where operators can’t necessarily serve customers as well as an MVNO could,” he said. “We provide all the necessary infrastructure and platforms to allow MVNOs to launch at a fraction of the cost of doing it themselves, and to launch quickly.”
According to Bailey, a number of South African banks have also shown “considerable interest” in launching MVNOs. “We have a pipeline of potential MVNOs,” he said.
Bailey ran Virgin Mobile in South Africa for four years, before leaving in 2012 for a short stint at a telecoms operator in Nigeria. He then joined Ignition Group and began work on the MVN-X business in 2013. — © 2014 NewsCentral Media