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Sainsbury’s and Vodafone kill off MVNO joint venture

Mobile by Sainsbury’s MVNO will shut down in 2016, says the supermarket giant

Mobile by Sainsbury’s, the mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) joint venture between the supermarket giant and Vodafone, will shut down on 15 January 2016, just two years after it launched.

The closure of the network was confirmed by a notice on the MVNO’s website.

Sainsbury’s told customers that pay-as-you-go users would be able to top up in-store and online until 14 November 2015, and will be able to continue to use existing credit until the shutdown date. Pay monthly SIM-only customers will continue to receive a service as normal until January. It will continue to sell mobile phones and accessories in its in-store phone shops.

According to Engadget, the supermarket has already started to remove promotional collateral and other materials from its stores.

Sainsbury’s and Vodafone launched the MVNO two years ago – Sainsbury’s second attempt at an MVNO – headed by a team drawn from both companies, in an attempt to go head-to-head with Tesco Mobile, which runs its services on the O2 network.

Mobile by Sainsbury’s offered a range of cheaper contracts for cost-conscious users, as well as ubiquitous Nectar reward points.

However, according to reports circulating on Twitter, it was unable to get much attention in the already competitive mobile market, attracting just 150,000 customers during its lifetime.

“We regret that Mobile by Sainsbury's – a joint venture between Sainsbury's and Vodafone UK, offering a mobile phone service to Sainsbury's customers – is ending and the service will no longer be available from 15 January 2016,” said a Vodafone spokesperson.

“Mobile by Sainsbury's priority now is to help its customers and make sure they are inconvenienced as little as possible.”

Contrary to reports that circulated earlier in the year, Vodafone's spokesperson told Computer Weekly that the operator had no plans to exit the MVNO business altogether.

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