O2 launches Manx Telecom MVNO


Another move on MVNO market by O2 UK, which claims to be in discussion with up to 10 other potential partners about wholesale opportunities

O2 has signed Isle of Man-based telecom provider Manx Telecom as an MVNO, just six months after parent company Telefónica sold the business for £158 million to HgCapital and CPS partners.

O2 has major MVNO partnerships already with supermarket chain Tesco and ethnic market provider Lycamobile (see page 16). Manx Telecom is the largest provider on the Isle of Man.
The deal is to provide opportunities for international customers entering the UK to access the O2 network for ‘in-country’ rates.

O2 stated in June it sold the business to focus resource on its key O2 and Movistar brands but said it would look for opportunities to work with Manx Telecom at a later date. Manx Telecom is partnering with Ekit, a communication provider for travellers, which provides prepay SIM cards, mobile phones, satellite handsets and global calling cards to help drive business in the UK.

SIM cards which operate on the O2 network will be available through the Ekit retail website, Telestial, as well as from airport departure areas, travel agents and on targeted websites.

O2 UK business sales director Ben Dowd (pictured) said: “This provides new and unique services for international travellers coming in to the UK. Tourists will be able to buy prepay SIM cards that will provide in-country rate calls over the O2 network.

“It’s for travellers who are coming in to the UK for a short time. Until now that opportunity hasn’t been on our network. It is therefore an incremental opportunity for us.

“It’s a multi-million pound agreement but it also sees Manx Telecom acting as an MVNA aggregator for us, which will allow smaller niche companies to access the O2 network.”

Dowd commented on O2 UK’s new interest in MVNOs and wholesale: “It’s fair to say in the last 12 months we have been looking at the MVNO market to get the right mix of partners. In the past 12 months we have launched with Lycamobile and obviously GiffGaff which have both been very successful.”

Dowd said the company does not have a target for MVNO numbers, but said O2 was in discussions with 5-10 partners. Dowd said: “We are evaluating five to 10 big opportunities. And for us they need to be of a size and scale to progress. The approach of ‘less is more’ in this market space is a good one. What you won’t see O2 doing in terms of direct MVNO relationships is small deals.

“That’s why we have an aggregator model. But our intention is not to become a mass MVNO house.

“O2 is the obvious home for MVNOs that want to become really successful, and we’re taking our time to build strong relationships with some of the largest and most interesting parties.”

Manx Telecom managing director Chris Hall said: “We intend to expand our involvement into areas where we have competitive advantage and the wholesale side of the market is potentially very attractive.”