Channel Islands Co-op joins partnership to offer mobile phone service

The society is working with telecoms company – and island specialist – Sure on the proposed Coop Mobile venture

Channel Islands (CI) Co-op has entered an agreement with telecoms company Sure on plans for a new mobile service covering Jersey and Guernsey.

The leading retailer in the islands, with 28 stores proposes to give its large membership access to the Sure’s network, forming Coop Mobile – mobile virtual network operator (MVNO), offering its own range of mobile services, competitive pricing, and product offerings for customers, all transmitted over Sure’s network infrastructure.

Virtual operators are common around the world. In the UK, Tesco Mobile is the largest MVNO with more than 5 million customers.

Sure is a trading brand of Batelco, operating in the Isle of Man, Jersey, Guernsey, the Falklands, St Helena, Ascension Island and the British Indian Ocean Territory. It is the largest tri-island mobile phone operator in the Channel Islands and Isle of Man.

The launch of Coop Mobile is a regulatory commitment from Sure as part of its proposed acquisition of Airtel Vodafone Channel Islands and means that customers would retain the choice of three operators.

While CI Coop would be using Sure’s mobile network, it would be competing against Sure and JT for retail customers.

The launch is subject to regulatory approval of the proposed acquisition in both islands and would happen within 12 months of receiving both those approvals. The Jersey Competition Regulatory Authority will now initiate a public consultation about the merger and the proposed MVNO.

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Sure says if its merger with Airtel Vodafone is approved, it will invest up to £48m in next-generation 5G mobile networks to dramatically improve speeds and mobile coverage for the islands.

Seven other legally binding commitments, in addition to the launch of the innovative MVNO, accompany the proposed deal and would ensure that customers will benefit from great value, improved services and security, and fair competition.

Sure’s Group CEO Alistair Beak welcomed the MVNO agreement: “Launching a virtual operator is one of a number of legally binding commitments we have made as part of Sure’s proposed acquisition of Airtel Vodafone. The Channel Islands Coop, like Sure, is a well-established and trusted leading local brand and we’re very pleased to be entering this innovative long-term agreement, subject to regulatory approval.

“Introducing CI Coop as a virtual operator is the ideal way to preserve competition and customer choice which are key to regulatory approval. That approval would pave the way for a significant investment in the secure 5G digital networks the island needs.

“We believe that this could be the first step in a revolution in mobile technology that will play a vital role in connecting our island communities for a better future.”

Mark Cox, CEO CI Coop, said: “The co-op is always looking for opportunities to innovate and offer its customers more choice and greater value at competitive prices. Coop Mobile is an exciting venture for us, for our members and for our customers across the islands, who will benefit from Sure’s investment in the latest technology and our unbeatable retail expertise.”

Graystone Strategy, specialist consultants in mobile and virtual mobile networks, has annouced that it is acting as principal advisor to CI Coop over the venture.

It says it has helped the society secure its wholesale contract with Sure and leverage the capabilities of its mobile network infrastructure, manage the regulatory process, develop the detailed business and investment case, and formulate the initial customer propositions.

“Our strategic agreement with Sure represents a significant alliance, providing us with a low-risk, cost-effective way to enter the local mobile market,” said Cox. “It was therefore imperative we had a compelling proposition and the right commercial terms in place to make it a success for our members and the wider market.

“Graystone’s in-depth knowledge in launching MVNOs has underpinned our approach to bidding for a licence. Thanks to their involvement, we have developed an offer that enhances our commitment to giving loyal members great value for money and leverages our existing membership and retail footprint.”

James Gray, managing director of Graystone Strategy, added: “We’re very excited to be working with the team at the Coop on what will be an historic move for the industry. I believe this is a superb opportunity to bring innovative and competitive mobile deals to the Channel Islands.

“As a team, we’ve worked with most of the UK’s major supermarkets on their MVNO offers and several of us have launched and run MVNOs. We have used our collective experience and expertise to guide the Coop to a credible business case that’s built around the customer. I wish them every success with their MVNO strategy.”