The People's Operator (TPO), a UK-based MVNO that lets customers donate 10 percent of their bill to a charity of their choice, plans to launch in the U.S. in 2015. That could potentially increase competition for similar U.S.-based MVNOs, such as Giv Mobile and Credo Mobile, which focus on charitable giving and progressive causes.
TPO filed plans to start trading shares on the London Stock Exchange, and said the TPO Foundation, a UK registered charity, will receive 25 percent of TPO's UK trading profits. The company said in its filing that it plans to launch a similar model "in other countries as TPO expands globally, commencing in 2015 by launching in the United States."
A Daily Telegraph, citing unnamed sources familiar with the matter, said the initial public offering on the Alternative Investment Market could value TPO at more than £100 million (around $161 million).
In its filing, TPO said that it has recently signed an "operating agreement" with Sprint (NYSE: S), presumably an MVNO contract, and that TPO's board of directors believes "the dynamics in the United States are attractive and consistent with the group's expansion plans."
Sprint spokesman John Votava confirmed that TPO will launch on Sprint's network when the service comes to the U.S. "We chose to partner with TPO because they have a compelling offer that we think will resonate with their target market," he told FierceWireless. "Sprint has a strong track record of enabling successful MVNOs that pair wireless services with social causes."
TPO said it has around 10,000 customers in the UK, up from around 5,800 at the end of June. The company, which is backed by Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, launched pay-as-you service in November 2012 and followed with a postpaid offering in April 2013. TPO rides on the mobile network of EE.
"The business has mainly been testing but now it is up-and-running in the UK and we have signed a deal in America so we want to go big there," Wales told the Telegraph. "It is the right time to put the pedal to the metal. It's a good time to raise money."
TPO said its average revenue per subscriber for its prepaid service is around $17.70 per month and around $27.30 for postpaid subscribers. The company offers SIM-only plans and does not sell phones. Customers can buy prepaid plans that range from $16 to $32, and postpaid plans that range from $16 to $24 per month.
TPO is connected with a variety of charities and progressive causes in the UK. In that sense it is very similar to GIV Mobile and Credo Mobile, two U.S. MVNOs.
Giv, a T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS) MVNO, lets users give 8 percent of an "unlimited everything" plan, which starts at $29 per month, to a non-profit charity of the customer's choice. Giv's plans range from $29 to $65 per month. Giv works with more than 35 charities and non-profits, including the Nature Conservancy, the Wilderness Society, the Alzheimer's Association, the American Cancer Society, Doctors Without Borders and the American Red Cross.
"GIV Mobile sees this as validation of the business model and that consumers continue to respond positively to products and services centered around supporting and advancing the common good," Omar Abhari, Giv's senior vice president of operations.
Credo is Sprint MVNO and bills itself as "America's only progressive phone company." Credo generates revenue to support progressive nonprofits via its activism arm, Credo Action. Since its inception in 1985, Credo claims to have raised $75 million for progressive nonprofit groups like Democracy Now!, Brennan Center for Justice, Doctors Without Borders, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Planned Parenthood and 350.org.
A Credo representative did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
- see this LSE filing
- see this Daily Telegraph article
- see this Reuters article
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Article updated Oct. 13 at 1:55 p.m. ET with a comment from Sprint and at 3:30 p.m. ET with a comment from Giv Mobile.