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Vodafone UK Loses Another MVNO Client as Sainsbury’s Dropped

Wednesday, October 14th, 2015 (3:41 pm) - Score 2,723

A few months ago TalkTalk accused Vodafone of “withdrawing entirely from the [Mobile Virtual Network Operator] market” (here) and today we learn that Sainsbury’s, which entered into a similar MVNO agreement in 2013, has been unable to reach a deal for continued service.

The original complaint by TalkTalk also accused Vodafone of choosing to terminate their own MVNO agreement “without warning“, which forced the ISP to swap on to O2’s platform. At the time TalkTalk’s submission to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) further claimed that Vodafone had “served notice to terminate the MVNO agreement that it has in place with Sainsbury’s.”

At the time Vodafone said that it had “no plans to exit the UK MVNO market and we are informing the CMA of the correct position,” although they also chose not to comment on some of TalkTalk’s other claims. But today’s statement by Sainsbury’s will do little to dampen concern about Vodafone’s position on MVNO deals.

Important news for our Mobile by Sainsbury’s customers

We’re sorry to let you know that from 15th January 2016, the Mobile by Sainsbury’s phone service will no longer be available.

We’ve loved having you as a customer, and we know that changing your service provider can be a hassle. So, we want to make the process as straightforward as possible.

•Firstly, we’re telling you now so that you have plenty of time to decide what to do.

•If you are a Pay As You Go customer, you are still able to top up until 14th November, in store and online. You can continue to use any remaining credit until 15th January 2016.

•If you are a Pay Monthly SIM Only customer, your service will continue to work as normal until 15th January 2016.

You don’t need to do anything for the time being, but please remember to use any outstanding credit before 15th January, when the service will stop working.

Once again, we’re sorry – and want you to know that we’re here to help.

Sainsbury’s, which has around 150,000 mobile subscribers (we cringe when this is spoken of as being “small”, without the “in comparison to” proviso), claims to be exploring their options and still wants to provide a mobile service, although the message above is very clear and doesn’t allude to any possibility of their return.

Similarly the supermarket giant has already had several months to talk with alternative operators (O2, Three UK and EE) and yet clearly that hasn’t resulted in a positive outcome, otherwise today’s news would be focused on a supplier swap and not closure.

The impending merger between BT and EE, as well as the increasingly weak prospect of approval for O2 and Three UK’s merger, will no doubt add further complications to the market on top of today’s news. Vodafone still has MVNO partners (e.g. Amazon, Talk Mobile and Lebara), but sadly such deals are not easy to compare without more detail.

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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