Business Maverick


Melon brings healthy competition to the mobile virtual network operator market

Melon brings healthy competition to the mobile virtual network operator market

Melon’s founder and chief executive, Calvin Collett, says the mobile virtual network operator is set to change how South Africans do mobile.

The consumer’s choice of mobile operator just got a little wider with the entrance of Melon Mobile, a fully digital mobile virtual network operator (MVNO). MVNOs are companies that provide mobile services (devices and airtime) while piggybacking on an existing mobile network. It’s a thriving market that has only grown since 2021 when World Wide Worx reported that South Africa had more than 100 million mobile connections. 

In this case, Melon will piggyback on the MTN network. Other popular MVNOs in the market include at least three from the major banks and two from retailers. Bank MVNOs include FNB Connect (Cell C network), Capitec Connect (Cell C) and Standard Bank Mobile (Cell C), while the retailer MVNOs are Mr Price Mobile (Cell C), Shoprite K’nect (Cell C) and Pick n Pay Mobile. Afrihost Air Mobile rounds out the MVNO market. 

Other than Pick n Pay Mobile and Afrihost Air Mobile, which both use the MTN network, all the other MVNOs use the Cell C network. However, Cell C technically no longer operates its own infrastructure, and My Broadband reports that Cell C relies on MTN to manage its radio access network and a roaming agreement with Vodacom. 

The diversified income these companies are seeing from their foray into mobile services is not to be sneezed at either.  FNB raked in a R1-billion turnover for the year to June 2022 from its MVNO offering alone. For the six months to December 2022, FNB Connect, which has been operating in the MVNO space for eight years, registered more than 879,000 active SIM users.

Capitec Connect was the last market entrant at the end of September last year with a prepaid solution for voice, data and SMS, offering rates of R4.50 per 100 megabytes or R45 for 1GB, which was, on average, 50% below the normal market price at the time of launch.

Read more in Daily Maverick: SA’s banks embrace the mobile virtual network operator space to drive digital inclusion

Melon’s founder and chief executive, Calvin Collett, says the MVNO is
set to change how South Africans do mobile:  

“We’ve built a service that puts the consumer first, giving them the freedom to choose their monthly data, voice and texts needs, without locking them into anything. It’s about flexibility, value and perhaps most importantly, simplicity.”  

Melon’s services will include the ability to build your own monthly plan, order a SIM and have it delivered to your door (offered by other MVNOs), the ability to port your number to Melon on the same day and a three-step process to self-Rica on the Melon app. 


What is new and noteworthy is the fact that Melon data, voice and texts will never expire (Capitec Connect also offers this) as long as you have a fully paid and valid data subscription in place; and the introduction of a “Try Before You Buy” plan which includes 1GB of data, 100 voice minutes and 100 texts. 

“We took a critical look at the mobile industry and painstakingly found solutions to everything we didn’t like about it. We nitpicked every detail, finessed the user interface, and redesigned the user experience until we got it just right. We didn’t digitise just for the sake of being digital. We put everything together to build a better experience for the consumer,” adds Collett.  

Quintus de Beer, MTN SA executive for wholesale and carrier services, says the mobile operator is encouraged by the development of the MVNO sector as it enhances competition while stimulating innovation and growth. DM/BM


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