News, views and commentary from the telecoms sector across emerging markets and developing countries worldwide

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Refreshing news for emerging markets MVNO proponents?

Kirène Mobile avec Orange: new MVNO on the scene in Senegal; graphic from

In March I asked which of India or Africa would be the first to see mass-market MVNOs. I tentatively concluded that perhaps India looked the better bet.

In that discussion, I made reference to a presentation by Carlos Valdecantos of mmChannel, a technology company dedicated to the development and management of digital entertainment services and platforms on a B2B format. In this presentation, Carlos argues that while Africa, taken in the round, might not yet be ready for the wide scale development of MVNOs, certain markets could possibly prove to be more attractive for investors in prospective virtual mobile operators. For Carlos, the high-potential markets are South Africa, Ghana, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Egypt. This is due to their meeting several criteria that he sets:
  • good market size (population level, GDP)
  • strong economic liberalisation
  • dynamic telecom sector
For Carlos, mid-potential African markets for MVNOs are Namibia, Mozambique, Cameroon, Gabon, Congo and Equatorial Guinea. These are described as having a reasonable mix of suitable market size, developing economic policies and economic reform underway. In this model, a further group of low potential markets is defined as being countries which "show an interesting opportunity in some of the key characteristics but completely fail to meet others." These are: Botswana, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda and Sudan.

This leaves a large number of African countries which Carlos describes as "no go markets" for MVNOs.

Yet it is from one of these "no go markets" that news comes today of an MVNO being launched. According to a Cellular News item, Kirène, a mineral water brand in Senegal says that it has launched an MVNO in the country, running on the Orange Senegal network. The mobile service will be branded as "Kirène Mobile avec Orange", with the Mobile Virtual Network Enabler (MVNE) services being supplied by Transatel.

Quoted in the article is a gentleman I've had the pleasure of meeting more than once on the conference circuit, Philippe Vigneau, Transatel's Director of Business Development: "Being a forerunner for both companies, this project was really important to us. First of all because it was the first partnership concluded in Africa on a brand agreement (with Orange). On the other hand it is the first time that a food-industry brand, turns to a worldwide operator to develop a mobile telephony offer."

I will watch with interest to see how successful this enterprise turns out to be. Is Senegal the right place for such a venture? Or is Carlos Valdecantos right to content that the country is among the "no go markets" for prospective MVNOs?

I am also intrigued by the notion of a food and beverage sector brand getting into the MVNO business. In his presentation, Carlos observes that there is likely to a strong correlation between the long-term profitability of an MVNO and the strategic assets the company/brand brings to its mobile venture. He cites assets and examples including:

  • systems + billing + customer base - example: Tele2 using fixed-telephony IT infrastructure to support virtual mobile service offerings across Europe.
  • differentiated value proposition/specific target segment - example: ay yildiz, an MVNO aimed at Turkish immigrants in Belgium, with special prices on calls to Turkey and Turkish language customer support.
  • access to customers/sales and recharge channel - example: Fresh Mobile, an MVNO offering in the UK from the Carphone Warehouse, the country's leading independent mobile phone retailer.
  • access to huge customer base - Tesco Mobile is the MVNO offering of the UK's largest supermarket chain, which has a distribution channel unrivalled in its pervasiveness; the chain also collects rich customer data via discount card schemes.
On my travels in Turkey, I've also heard it suggested that Istanbul's big three football clubs, each of which has a fanatical fan base numbering in the millions, might enter the MVNO space once market conditions make it feasible.

I am much less clear what a mineral water brand brings to an MVNO project, much less in a potentially very challenging market such as Senegal. That said, I have never visited the west African country and could not comment on the degree to which Kirène is a dominant, well-loved brand. Perhaps brand equity alone will be enough to make this enterprise succeed.


  1. Hi, just a quick update
    The two Turkish football teams Galatasaray and Fenerbahce have started their MVNO operations in Turkey as GSMobile and Fenercell with Avea as the host operator.

  2. Thanks for that, Draw. News to me... I thought MVNOs were still stalled in Turkey because of struggles around making the business model work in the current tax regime. You live and learn. Oh, and I like the "Draw Morrissey" blog... different :)

  3. Well you are kind of right. Although the two are called MVNOs, their business model is the reseller type because the laws for MVNOs are not yet available.

  4. Just a quick note to refer the analysis done by mmC Group (a management consulting and advisory firm) on the mvno opportunity in africa. Please refer to the complete analysis here:


    Best regards. Good blog.
    Carlos Valdecantos


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