CARTAGENA, Colombia—Virgin Mobile Latin America (VMLA) is set to launch mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) in Colombia during the last quarter this year and in Brazil during the second half of 2013, said Jeffery Buckwalter, VMLA’s senior vice president for business development, speaking at this week’s Colombian ICT event, Andicom (check all stories). “It is a tremendous opportunity to be in the region. The business program is on schedule,” he said.
The planned launches in Colombia and Brazil follow VMLA’s Chilean launch last April. Since then, VMLA has added approximately 70,000 subscribers to its base—adding 21,750 in July alone. According to the company’s forecast, it will build to a rate of 30,000 subs per month by the end of the year. VMLA estimates that 70% of its customers are from the targeted youth segment.
Buckwalter said the company has already secured MVNO operating licenses in Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru. It will access a Brazilian license through a partnership, and there are applications pending in Argentina, Uruguay and Bolivia.
VMLA also has joint venture partners. It closed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) in Colombia with a “leading family office,” and in Brazil with Datora Telecom, which also partnered with the insurance company Porto Seguro to launch MVNO services in Brazil.
VMLA chose Telefónica in Chile and Colombia to serve as its MNO. Buckwalter did not reveal the name of the Brazilian MNO, but he did say that the company has signed a memorandum of understanding with a leading operator. According to the latest Anatel numbers from July, Vivo kept its leadership with 76,181,210 mobile lines (29.71%), followed by TIM with 68,672,340 (26.78%), Claro (63,075,082 or 24.60%), Oi (47,661,864 or 18.59%), among others.
During his presentation, Buckwalter also pointed out that VMLA might follow the debt funding agreement model it used in Chile for Brazil and Argentina. In Chile, Virgin closed on a U.S.$11 million debt funding agreement with IFC, a member of the World Bank Group.
“Our expectation is that we will grow here as we grew in other regions,” he said. ”The MVNO model is very successful. There are about 700 MVNOs worldwide versus just 11 in Latin America. By 2013, the global number of MVNOs is expected to exceed the total number of MNOs.”