UK Post Office scraps its MVNO after unsuccessful trial

The UK Post Office's mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) is shutting down, the beleaguered publicly owned company has said.

The MVNO, which resold connectivity from EE's network, was announced as a new entry in the UK's hyper-competitive market around two years ago, with Post Office chief commercial officer Martin George describing the service as a "significant milestone in the Post Office's journey of change".

It was originally supposed to see a nationwide rollout by the end of 2014, but the trial only began in June 2015. At its height, the MVNO was selling pay-as-you-go SIM cards online and in 263 of the Post Office's 11,600 branches. Now, the Post Office has decided to scrap the whole thing.

"We have decided to conclude this trial as results did not give us sufficient confidence that mobile was going to contribute to our goal of becoming commercially sustainable," said George. "This decision demonstrates that we are prepared to make difficult decisions to focus our investment where it can have the biggest benefit, such as in continuing to improve our retail network, digital capability and our product portfolio."

Indeed, the Post Office intends to start offering superfast fibre broadband later this year.

A spokesperson for the Post Office declined to say how many customers the MVNO had attracted during its trial phase.

The MVNO is now no longer selling new SIM cards, nor is it replacing lost or broken cards. From May 24, customers will no longer be able to purchase bundles for use within the UK. From Jun. 22, they won't be able to top up their credit, and from Aug. 1, they will no longer be able to buy roaming bundles. The whole thing shuts down on Aug. 8.

Customers have until Aug. 4 to request PAC codes for the transfer of their number to a new operator, and the deadline for port completion is also Aug. 8. Unused credit will be eligible for a refund, with details due to be published in late June.

The Post Office has just announced yet more job cuts -- this time 600 roles in its cash handling division -- and unions are warning that the venerable institution is "heading for extinction".

For more:
- see the Post Office blog post
- see the Post Office customer Q&A

Related articles:
UK Post Office to enter mobile market
Tesco's MVNO plan reflects growing MVNO confidence
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Vodafone UK picks MVNE Digitalk to support MVNO business
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