SA is getting a second mobile virtual network operator. TechCentral has learnt exclusively that Red Bull, the energy-drinks company, will launch a virtual network operator in the country and will piggyback off Cell C’s new network.
It’ll be the second mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) after Virgin Mobile, which also uses Cell C as its infrastructure backbone. Red Bull Mobile could be launched as soon as next month.
Cell C is understood to be actively courting MVNOs interested in launching in SA.
Well-placed sources close to Cell C say Red Bull Mobile will offer both voice and wireless broadband services.
TechCentral’s sources say Cell C and Red Bull will finalise their agreement within the next week. Unlike Virgin Mobile, Cell C will not hold an equity stake in Red Bull Mobile.
Red Bull, headquartered in Fuschl am See, Austria, had revenues of €3,3bn in 2009. It controls almost 50% of the US energy drinks market.
Red Bull Mobile SA is likely to compete directly with Virgin Mobile, which was the country’s first MVNO, launched to great fanfare in 2006 by Virgin chairman Richard Branson.
Cell C holds a 50% stake in Virgin Mobile SA. However, Cell C is in the process of selling its stake in the Virgin Mobile business to cellphone distributor Allied Mobile.
Virgin Mobile hasn’t had an easy time of it in SA. But its growth has picked up recently and it’s understood it now has about 300 000 subscribers.
It’s understood Red Bull Mobile will target niche markets, building on its extensive eventing profile in SA. It will differentiate itself by pushing exclusive content to its subscribers.
Red Bull holds about 400 events a year in SA, ranging from surfing exhibitions and adventure sports to high-profile music events. Internationally, the company is well known for its sponsorship of Formula 1 and for its popular Air Race.
Red Bull has already launched MVNOs in Switzerland, Hungary and its home market of Austria and has reportedly signed a deal to launch a similar product in Germany. It’s been most successful in Austria, where it piggybacks on Telekom Austria’s mobile network.
SA will be the first country outside Europe where Red Bull Mobile will be launched. The company has been searching for international expansion opportunities since November last year.
Reports suggest it is also negotiating a possible deal in China.
No details about pricing or handsets are available at this stage. — Candice Jones, TechCentral