VimpelCom is entering the market of services for virtual operators – this will be a new separate business line, employees of the two communication companies told Vedomosti. “It is planned that this project will be similar to the MVNO factory, which has been operating in Tele2 since 2016,” says one of the sources of Vedomosti. VimpelCom really plans to strengthen this business line, confirmed a person familiar with its managers.
The official representative of VimpelCom does not deny plans for the development of the MVNO business: “We are ready to consider interesting partnership proposals in this area.”
The first personnel changes associated with this project have already taken place, said two interlocutors of Vedomosti. In particular, in early March, Sergei Bykov, who was previously the director of interaction with telecom operators and roaming of the company, was appointed vice president of Vimpelcom for the operator business, they remind. Among his responsibilities will include, in particular, building relationships with virtual operators. Bykov will have to develop a strategy for the development of Vimpelcom’s MVNO business, says one of Vedomosti’s sources.
Until now, VimpelCom, like other mobile operators of the Big Three, has practically not interacted with virtual operators. Except for JSC Glonass (it operates the Era Glonass system, which, as a virtual operator, connects car accident reporting modules to the networks of all four Russian federal operators), only one MVNO operates on the Beeline network. This is the Sim telecom company, created to provide communication services to migrants from the CIS. VimpelCom did not specify how many subscribers she now has.
There are also virtual operators on the networks of MTS and Megafon – however, in this status, services are provided by their subsidiaries MGTS, Scartel (Yota) and NetByNet.
Large cellular companies do not have much interest in MVNO – traditional operators see them more as competitors, explains a manager of one of the communication companies: “Virtual operators, as a rule, serve certain market niches. But in the conditions of its oversaturation, ordinary communications companies themselves want to work in these niches and not share the proceeds with anyone. “
Tele2 and its MVNO factory have a different strategy, the source of Vedomosti points out: “The company entered the market later than others and was in dire need of expanding its subscriber base”. Now more than 20 virtual operators work on the Tele2 network, serving 2.8 million subscribers in 2020, which is 37% more than a year earlier, said the company’s representative Daria Kolesnikova. With the advent of a special platform in 2017, the launch of virtual operators was put on stream, she emphasizes. Among them are four bank MVNOs (Tinkoff Mobile, Sbermobile, VTB Mobile, Gazprombank Mobile), as well as Voentelecom, Eagle Mobile of UFC champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, Migo Mobile from business blogger Azam Khodjaev and others.
Its parent operator Rostelecom is also currently operating as an MVNO on the Tele2 network. The actual number of its subscribers has not been disclosed. At the end of 2020, there were about 2 million of them. That is, Tele2 now has only about 4.8 million MVNO subscribers, the annual growth of which was 28%, a source close to one of the companies notes.
According to TMT Consulting, by the end of 2020, the total number of MVNO users in the Russian Federation exceeded 11 million (slightly more than 4% of the total number of mobile users). The largest player was Yota, serving almost 60% of virtual subscribers.
Megafon and MTS did not comment on plans for MVNO. The MTS representative emphasized that the operator now ranks 1st in Russia in terms of revenue and number of subscribers.
It is the attempt to stabilize and expand the dwindling subscriber base that the market participants surveyed by Vedomosti explain Vimpelcom’s interest in MVNOs. “Beeline” is afraid of losing the third place in Russia in terms of the number of subscribers, and therefore is engaged in such projects, the manager of a large federal operator believes. In his opinion, VimpelCom has good prerequisites for the development of this business: “Now the company is actively modernizing its network and expanding its capacity. At the same time, VimpelCom operates in all regions of Russia, except for Crimea, while Tele2 – only in 68 out of 85 ”.
According to Rostelecom, its mobile subscriber base last year (including Tele2) grew by 1.5% to 46.6 million. The number of Vimpelcom’s mobile subscribers decreased by 8.7% to 49.9 million over the year. follows from the report of its parent holding Veon. With such dynamics, Tele2 can quickly oust Vimpelcom from the big three, experts and market participants interviewed by Vedomosti did not rule out earlier.
“Experiencing problems with a drop in its subscriber base, VimpelCom is following the same path as Tele2. Her experience has shown that MVNO is an effective auxiliary way of attracting subscribers to its network and obtaining additional revenue, “said Konstantin Ankilov, General Director of TMT Consulting. At the same time, part of potential and existing subscribers may go to a virtual operator, respectively, the income from their service will have to be divided, the expert warns. However, given the market share of VimpelCom, such losses will not be critical, Ankilov believes: “The overall positive effect will outweigh.”
A virtual operator, which in the future can gain a significant subscriber base, can receive up to 70% of subscriber payments, says Denis Kuskov, CEO of Telecom Daily. According to him, against the background of subscriber outflow for Vimpelcom, all means of restoring the subscriber base are now good: “However, if you do not increase the loyalty of existing subscribers, improve the quality of communication and pursue a flexible tariff policy, no MVNO will help.”