Wind of change lifts Middle East MVNOs

Following the launch of the Middle East region’s first MVNOs – Friendi Mobile and Renna in Oman earlier this year – winds of change appear to be blowing through a market once reluctant to accept virtual operators.

The Sultanate of Oman is certainly leading the charge, having signed yet another MVNO agreement with Mazoon Mobile in October, a service provider which entered its third week of operation as the recent GSM>3G Middle East Telco World Summit kicked off.

“The mentality of the incumbent operators has shifted a great deal and perception has changed,” said Mohamed Al Hashili, CEO of Mazoon Mobile, which piggybacks on the Nawras network. “So today we are true partners, working hand in hand for the benefit of both parties.”

Mikkel Vinter, CEO of Friendi, which started operations in partnership with Oman Mobile earlier in the year, supported Al Hashili’s remark. “The whole attitude towards the MVNO model has changed in a positive direction in the past year. Operators now more open to discussing deals and we are able to engage with operators across the region,” he said.

Regardless of whether they are open to the MVNO model, operators are certainly curious. Speaking on the panel discussion on the Impact of MVNOs in the Market Place yesterday, Phillippe Vogeleer, chief strategy officer for Orange Jordan, agreed that the sentiment towards MVNOs has changed, but perhaps not for the same reasons.

“Looking at Oman gave us something concrete, something tangible to study,” he said, admitting a positive outcome from this research. “We thought that maybe in some markets segments we are not as effective as we could be and we could use someone to help us.” This is where the MVNO, which typically targets niche markets underserved by the network operators comes into play. “But the fear is that the MVNO could go from helpful as a way to target niche markets to being very successful and even become a competitor.”

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