Economy, Sci & Tech

Virgin Mobile Interested in Iran MVNO market

Virgin Mobile Interested in Iran MVNO market
Virgin Mobile Interested in Iran MVNO market

As Iran prepares to allow several new Mobile Virtual Network Operators to enter the telecoms market, rumors have been circulating in local and international media that Iran could also host the world’s oldest MVNO, Virgin Mobile.

In a recent interview with Mikkel Vinter, CEO of Virgin Mobile in the Middle East and North Africa region, the famous telecoms operator expressed interest in Iran’s liberalization of its network market, Arabian Business reported.  

While talking about other Persian Gulf countries, Vinter noted that Iran and Iraq are definite areas his company is looking to enter.

Markets like Iraq and Iran are good, but the former would “depend on the security situation”.

In fact, the virtual telecoms player is one of several rumored to have been interested in applying for licenses from Iran’s Communications and Information Technology Ministry.

Other players mentioned in relevant local events include Malaysian telecoms companies and Europe-based MVNO Lebara that offers discount to callers dialing internationally.

The telecoms expert noted that the market has radically changed in recent years across the region, adding that it was a bit experimental in the early days.

Vinter was referring to the expansion of MVNO sector as the next generation model of mobile service providers that relies on leasing capacity from traditional telecoms players rather than building an expensive infrastructure of its own.

As they do not have to spend money on maintaining such an infrastructure, MVNOs can focus on customer research and provide targeted mobile services. They can also help provide other benefits, such as information and entertainment services, discounts and personalized services for certain customers.

MVNOs are considered a cost efficient choice for many customers, as they do not have to pay for line rental or other fixed network fees. They purchase credit and data capacity as and when they require it.

Virgin Mobile, founded by Richard Branson in the UK in 1999, is the world’s largest MVNO, serving more than 18 million people globally.

Its MEA division was launched in South Africa in 2006 with its regional headquarters in Dubai.

From 2009 to 2012, it was launched in three more markets, namely Oman, Jordan and Malaysia.

Virgin Mobile MEA is owned by different groups of shareholders, including Virgin Group and Gulf Investment Corporation (the two single biggest shareholders), other private investment funds, such as ePlanet Capital from Silicon Valley, some Middle Eastern investors, as well as Virgin Mobile MEA management, according to the monthly magazine.

It has 3 million customers across the Middle East and Africa, of which 2 million are in the Middle East.

Declining to reveal exact figures, Vinter claims the business has witnessed strong double-digit growth year-on-year. It netted $200 million in revenue in 2015 and expects a strong increase in 2016.