Friendi Mobile unveils its MVNO plans

Dubai-based MVNO start-up Friendi Mobile will launch its first commercial operation in the MENA region in the first quarter of 2008, according to the company's CEO Mikkel Vinter.

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By  Ronan Shields Published  November 6, 2007

Dubai-based MVNO start-up Friendi Mobile will launch its first commercial operation in the MENA region in the first quarter of 2008, according to the company's CEO Mikkel Vinter.

"We are expecting to launch our first MVNO service in the region in the latter half of Q108 and this progress will accelerate rapidly over the next two-to-three years," Vinter told CommsMEA.

Vinter was unable to disclose which market Friendi Mobile will initially launch its services in but added that the company was in negotiations to enter 14 markets throughout the MENA region.

However, he did state that the regulatory climate and market conditions in both Bahrain and Jordan were amenable to the presence of MVNO players. "The Bahraini TRA has stated that the next step for it to take in terms of developing the Bahrain market will most likely be along the virtual model."

Jordan's telco regulator recently issued a legal framework paving the way for MVNO launches in the country. The move made Jordan the first telco market open to an MVNO in the region with Saudi Arabia's i2 set to launch such operation there in January 2008.

Vinter also revealed that Friendi Mobile intends to promote itself as a "niche player" in the pre-paid consumer segment and confirmed that the company will target "single digit market share" wherever it launches operations.

"Across the telecoms industry, companies are moving away from the ‘one size fits all' approach towards a more focused strategy," he said. "This can have a positive effect for the [host] operator and the MVNO."

A recent report entitled ‘MVNOs in the Middle East: threat or opportunity?' issued by research firm Delta Partners, noted that the introduction of MVNOs in Europe had proved a positive influence in the development of the continent's telecommunications market by increasing competition.

However, the introduction of MVNOs could fundamentally change the industry landscape, according to Rogier van Driessche, co-author of the report and a partner with Dubai-based Delta Partners. "It is a truly disruptive model that requires careful analysis by all stakeholders," he said.

The report also claimed that the presence of MVNO players in the Europe had the effect of lowering prices as well as offering commercial benefits for host operators.

Dreissche also predicted that both the Omani and Bahraini telco regulators were likely to open their borders to MVNO players in the coming months.

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