Low-cost mobile virtual network operator Lebara is following the non-virtual operators in a step towards quad-play with a TV offering — and for the moment at least skipping broadband and fixed.
As with the existing phone service, Lebara Play will be prepaid, with customers topping up their allocation at a local corner shop. There is no obligation to buy contiguous months, a model which suits the company's core user base (migrants), who might return home for a few months.
The service will run through apps — Windows, Mac or Android with iPhone coming soon — or a dedicated set-top box. The box supports 4K video, has a remote control with qwerty, and a headset socket.
Lebara is very proud of the low latency of the new service, claiming that – customer broadband notwithstanding – it is "fast".
While there are no contractual obligations if you use the apps, and there is some free curated content, the box costs £149 and comes with a year’s service.
“We’ve built relationships with some of the leading content companies worldwide, and in the coming months we’ll be announcing further deals to deliver customers even more of the TV and movies they love in their own language," said Aditya Thakur, CEO of Lebara Play.
A one-off monthly subscription costs £9.99. Annual subscriptions work out cheaper per month than renewing your monthly subscription every month. Sign up for a year and you'll only pay for 10 months - £100. The set top box costs £149 and includes a year's unlimited viewing of your chosen package.
There are more than 150 TV channels and 3,000 movies, although you’d need to be an incredible polyglot to enjoy them all. The initial offering consists of European, African and Asian channels, including Sun TV, KTV and Adithya, as well as the African Movie Channel, Ebony Life and Nigerian channel Silverbird.
Lebara doesn’t yet have any significant sports rights and appreciates this shortcoming, particularly the lack of IPL cricket. The company points out that the Indian market is complex, with 768 channels, but didn’t want to hold up the launch until negotiations on some of the more complex deals were complete.
The Nigerian market is catered for, and there is the Turkish channel ATV Avrupa, which sits alongside Euro D, Eurostar and TV8 International, plus an extensive catalogue of Turkish movies.
"Lebara Play provides a huge range of content – blending the best of video on demand movies and live TV programming – with a simple and intuitive user experience, at a competitive price," added Thakur.
Moving into other spaces is a shrewd thing to do, and Lebara is conscious of the threat from VoIP services to its core international revenue and the steep decline in the costs of international calls. The company has 5.3 million customers and selling them movie and money services builds on the brand.