Orange MVNO Econet gains UK pass via IDT


New Orange MVNO pitching to UK African communities takes defunct IDT Mobile’s wholesale and trade deals

Telecoms group Econet Wireless has taken over the UK MVNO operation of IDT Mobile to launch its own services to African communities in the UK.

IDT Mobile’s wholesale agreement with Orange, signed in late 2007 but inactive for more than 12 months, transfers to Econet, along with customers, trade agreements and other assets. Econet will also make use of remaining IDT Mobile staff, it said.

Ethnic market MVNO IDT Mobile targeted Chinese, Australian, New Zealand and South African communities in the UK particularly.

Econet is targeting the broad African community in the UK. It already has telecoms operations in 14 markets, including Botswana, Burundi, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Nigeria, South Africa and Zimbabwe, and will offer cheap call rates to UK customers calling to and from these countries.

Econet said IDT Mobile’s continuing distribution and retail relationships transfer to it. Econet chief operating officer Gary McDonald said the new business will also have access to IDT Mobile staff for a period of time in order “to learn the business”.

Everything Everywhere vice president of wholesale Marc Overton (pictured) said US conglomerate IDT, parent of IDT Mobile, had been reviewing its options. IDT Mobile had failed to compete with Lebara Mobile and Lycamobile in particular in the ethnic market in the UK, and IDT considered the MVNO to be a non-core asset.

Overton said the review of IDT Mobile coincided with Econet approaching Orange to launch the UK’s first foreign-owned MVNO, targeted specifically at African communities.

Said Overton: “Econet was looking at the opportunity to enter the UK market and we were looking at how we could repackage an existing operator as a vehicle for someone to get to market quickly.

“There was value in the speed we could get to market with a new partner, as well as in the existing distributor and operator relationships, to give it the best chance of making a major impact.”

McDonald said Econet is in a position to target specific groups of customers, notably those calling to and from Zimbabwe, South Africa, Ghana and Nigeria, at events in the coming weeks.

Econet will shortly announce a range of promotions to entice African communities to the MVNO, as well as some “unique” promotions to keep customers actively topping up airtime.

Overton said the Econet model offers an alternative to traditional calling card and ethnic-orientated mobile businesses on the grounds it exists in its own right in the overseas markets it is to serve.

Overton said: “There is a huge opportunity to better serve ethnic communities in the UK.

“Econet’s inside knowledge, reputation and local understanding can be translated into a winning solution by using the assets and reach of Orange’s network with IDT as a vehicle.”