French telecommunications group, Orange, could launch a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) service in South Africa, as part of its aggressive plans to enter the lucrative mobile market in Africa’s largest economy and other parts of the continent.

The global group made this disclosure days after it launched a new subsidiary called, Orange Horizons, in an effort to seek out new business opportunities in countries where the group is not already represented as a mass-market telecommunications provider.

The project, which will leverage the global reputation of the Orange brand and existing group assets, aims to provide a new source of revenue for Orange and improve customer loyalty across its footprint without the need for significant investment.

An MVNO operator piggybacks on another company’s wireless network to provide services. Orange, owned by France Telecom, has been operating in South Africa for more than 10 years through subsidiary Orange Business Services, which provides technology services to corporate clients.

But now the company intends to enter the mobile services market and is using its sponsorship of Africa’s biggest football tournament, the African Nations Cup (Afcon), which is being held in South Africa from Saturday, to unveil several initiatives to position itself in the market.

Orange will roll out its programmes in phases starting with the launch of online stores selling telecoms-related equipment or airtime, the introduction of flexible travel solutions, or the launch of an MVNO activity, it said.

Sébastien Crozier, MD of Orange Horizons, said this week that although the South African market was mature, the country still had huge growth potential for the group especially given that data prices were still high. He said Orange was looking at ways to offer its customers, especially travellers, value added services related to data.

The local cellphone market is dominated by MTN and Vodacom.

Orange could introduce multi-country travel solutions — data offers using Wi-Fi (short range wireless network technology) or voice over internet protocol — aimed in particular at professionals or tourists coming from countries in which Orange is already present.

Spiwe Chireka, a telecoms analyst at International Data Corporation, said Cell C, South Africa’s third biggest mobile operator, would be the immediate option for MVNO partnership.

Cell C already has an existing policy to work with and support MVNOs while 8ta, another South Africa’s mobile operator, would be more of an acquisition candidate especially with speculation around the split of Telkom in the future. 8ta is owned by Telkom, South Africa’s fixed line operator.


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