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HMD Global makes its own MVNO to create a one-stop phone-buying shop

HMD Global, the company which owns the license to produce Nokia phones, is getting into the mobile operator business. HMD Mobile will launch soon in the U.K., and be available alongside Nokia phones for sale on the company’s online store, creating a one-stop-shop for all your mobile communication needs.

Sounds like a great plan, but HMD Global is entering an incredibly competitive market, so will it be able to convince Nokia phone buyers to grab a coverage plan too?

What is HMD Mobile?

HMD Mobile is a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO), which means it connects to an existing mobile network, and then offers the service to you, usually at a reduced price and on a pay monthly with no contract basis. MVNOs are widespread in the U.K., more so than in the U.S. Examples in the U.S. include Boost Mobile, which connects to AT&T’s network, and Ting, which uses Sprint and T-Mobile’s network.

HMD Global produces Nokia phones under license Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

In the U.K. there are four main networks, EE, Vodafone, O2, and Three, and HMD Mobile has partnered with one of these to supply coverage. However, at the time of writing it has not revealed which one it will use. It’s very important to know which carrier will be used, as it affects coverage. There’s no point in having a phone if the service isn’t widely available where you live or work.

It has not revealed all its pricing plans either. What we do know is the cheapest will cost 6.50 British pounds per month/$9 and provide unlimited calls and texts, along with 1GB of 5G data. Some MVNOs don’t offer 5G in the U.K. yet, and the low cost of this package does make it stand out, but it’s not the best value. GiffGaff, a popular, long-established MVNO charges 10 pounds/$14 for 9GB of 5G data, for example. HMD Mobile’s top plan will provide 25GB of data, but the cost isn’t known at the time of writing.

Serious competition

MVNOs are everywhere in the U.K., to the point where you can pick up a SIM card with your weekly shopping, as supermarkets like Tesco and Asda run their own MVNOs, or even with your shampoo at high street pharmacy Superdrug.

A company giving buyers of its other products the option to add mobile connectivity isn’t a new idea either. Sky Mobile adds mobile connectivity to Sky’s existing phone/internet/television services, in a similar way to BT Mobile and Virgin Mobile, while iD Mobile does the same for customers of the electronics retail store Dixons Carphone, where many people buy a new phone.

Major networks and companies are in on the MVNO game too. GiffGaff is owned by O2, and Vodafone operates Voxi, an MVNO which targets social networking-obsessed young people, for example. China Mobile — the world’s largest mobile operator by subscribers — runs CMLink, an MVNO aimed at Chinese people living in the U.K. who want a convenient and affordable link to China. In the U.S., Google operates Google Fi, an MVNO alternative that uses three different network services and Wi-Fi for coverage.

There are dozens, possibly even hundreds of MVNOs to choose from in the U.K.. Price is always a reason to choose one over a main network, but with strong deals out there already, will a low entry cost be enough to attract people to HMD Mobile? Probably not, but that may not be its strategy.

The package deal?

HMD Global’s secret weapon may be a “full service” phone deal. HMD Mobile will launch around the same time as its newly refreshed range of smartphones, the C series, G series, and X series. The cheapest will be the Nokia C20, available for just 80 British pounds/$111, rising to the top Nokia X20 for 320 pounds/$444.

Let’s take the C20 as an example first. You go to Nokia’s online store, buy the phone and the HMD Mobile connectivity. For this, you get a ready-to-go Android Go-powered phone with two years of guaranteed security updates from Google, and two years warranty from Nokia on the phone itself. Convenient and cheap, and with peace of mind for the near future too.

Choose the Nokia X20 and it comes with a third year of warranty, three years of Google OS updates (so it will eventually get Android 14), and the security updates too. We shouldn’t dismiss the attraction of Nokia’s brand name here either, which has long been synonymous with reliability and trustworthiness, so when paired with good prices, guaranteed updates and long warranties, a low-cost mobile connection available when you buy the phone could be an easy add-on purchase for many.

If HMD Mobile is a success, we may see other similar MVNOs come from forward-thinking competing manufacturers with the financial backing and willingness to experiment, such as OnePlus, Xiaomi, and Motorola. HMD Mobile will launch at the end of April through Nokia’s online store, and we’ll update here with the final prices and options when they are announced.

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