updated 11:12 am EDT, Mon April 28, 2014
MVNO forced to close after failing to reach agreement on wholesale data rates
British carrier Samba has shut its doors after just under two years of service. The virtual operator, running on top of Three in the United Kingdom and providing free mobile data to subscribers viewing daily advertisements on the service, has stopped providing service to all of its users, claiming the high cost of wholesale wireless bandwidth was the cause of the closure.
The Samba website claims the costs made its business model unsustainable, and notes that it cannot guarantee it will switch the service back on "unless negotiations with partners result in lower costs for Samba." The lack of advance warning for its closure has been put down to the fact that the company pays its wholesale data partners in advance, and since it reached the end of the current billing period without being able to agree on costs, it was forced to close.
Customers of the service will still receive refunds for some aspects, reports TechCrunch. Anyone who bought a SIM card or mobile broadband USB stick this month will receive a refund, with valid balances also being sent back to the originating Paypal accounts. Credit earned through watching advertising will not be refunded, and commission payments for customers signing up in April will also go unpaid. The underlying technology behind the company will continue to be used in other services.
Ad-supported mobile phone networks have existed before in the United Kingdom, with Blyk operating a similar system from 2007 before closing its doors to customers in 2009.