Vodafone Italia is preparing to launch a low-cost MVNO brand later this year to compete with Telecom Italia’s recent debut of its Kena Mobile MVNO and the imminent entry of France’s Iliad as the country’s fourth mobile network operator, according to a news report. Back on 8 March, Vodafone created a company called Vei SRL and informed competitors that it holds a general license for full MVNO activities.
The new entity would serve as the vehicle for the new MVNO brand, which could begin providing mobile number portability services as early as this September, said the report. While Vodafone sources indicated to journalists that no final decision has been taken and that the company is still evaluating its options, the creation of a new brand and the existence of a detailed roadmap point to the imminent launch of a budget service.
Italy’s MVNO war looks set to heat up, with some help from a foreign power, so to speak. Two months ago, TIM (Telecom Italia) began offering Kena Mobile MVNO plans. In addition, French operator Iliad (which provides mobile service under the brand Free) plans to launch as an MNO in Italy sometime between November 2017 and January 2018.
In this market climate, it makes a great deal of sense for Vodafone Italia to take decisive action and create its own budget-minded service to compete. The famously disruptive Iliad is known for its aggressive offers and says it is planning to grab 10 percent of the Italian mobile market quickly. Vodafone sees the need to respond in kind. At an industry conference last November, Vittorio Colao, the CEO of Vodafone, when asked about Free’s launch in Italy, said, “When you have a big warship and the pirates are approaching, it makes sense to send out the commandos in the speed boats,” referring to tactics such as price cuts and more generous data bundles.
Now that the time to deploy the commandos has arrived, the operator has apparently chosen the MVNO type of speed boat. The logic of that seems to be that by breaking out its budget service into a separate brand, Vodafone can more effectively and directly market itself as an alternative to Free (as well as to TIM’s MVNO), both to existing and prospective customers.
As for TIM, its new Kena Mobile MVNO is offering the choice of a voice-only bundle of 1,000 minutes or a bundle of 4 GB of 3G data for €3.99 (US $4.45) per month, with the cost rising to €9.99 (US $11.14) per month for 600 voice minutes, 100 SMS and 6 GB of data. We would expect Vodafone’s prospective MVNO, if it indeed comes to the market, to at least equal that.