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IMDA investigating virtual telco Gorilla for halting mobile services without seeking its approval

SINGAPORE — The authorities are investigating Gorilla Mobile for not seeking the necessary approval before halting their mobile services, after the virtual telco earlier announced that it was stopping its mobile plans here by Jan 31 and then later altered its announcement.

Users of Gorilla's mobile services in Singapore were advised to move to another provider to maintain uninterrupted service as its mobile plans had to be suspended due to technical upgrades.
Users of Gorilla's mobile services in Singapore were advised to move to another provider to maintain uninterrupted service as its mobile plans had to be suspended due to technical upgrades.
  • The Infocomm Media Development Authority is investigating Gorilla Mobile for not seeking the necessary approval before halting their mobile services
  • Doing so before ending of services is required under the Service-Based Operations License, which allows an operator to provide services-based telecommunications services here
  • The authorities' response came after the virtual telco earlier announced an abrupt cessation of its mobile services in Singapore

SINGAPORE — The authorities are investigating Gorilla Mobile for not seeking the necessary approval before halting their mobile services, after the virtual telco earlier announced that it was stopping its mobile plans here by Jan 31 and then later altered its announcement.

Responding to TODAY's queries, the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) on Thursday (Jan 19) said that seeking its approval before ending of services is required under Gorilla's licence conditions.

“IMDA takes a serious view to licensees not adhering to their licence requirements and is investigating.” 

Telco operators such as Gorilla must obtain IMDA's prior written approval before terminating either its licence or one of its services, based on the conditions listed under IMDA's Service-Based Operations Licence.

They also need to give the regulator a written notice six months before it intends to terminate the licence, or three months before it intends to terminate any of the services it provides, IMDA's website states.

Penalties for a breach in the licensing conditions may include a warning or a financial penalty.

In an email to users on Monday and in a notice on their website on Tuesday, Gorilla announced “the discontinuation of our local mobile plan with effect from 31st January 2023”.

The website notice was later changed a few times, initially removing a line stipulating that the last day of service is on Jan 31, and stating that the stoppage of mobile services would be done “progressively”.

As of Thursday, the latest version of the notice urged Gorilla users in Singapore to “migrate to another provider to maintain uninterrupted service” as the firm undergoes technical improvements on its platform to pave the way for the launch of e-SIM services.

No final date of service is mentioned in its latest notice.

IMDA said that it has asked the firm to “fulfil their obligations” to users affected by the halting of services.

“We understand they have since given the required three months’ notice to affected users,” the authority added.

WHY IS GORILLA STOPPING ITS MOBILE PLANS?

On Tuesday, Mr Rokas Sidlauskas, chief marketing officer of Gorilla's parent company Society Pass Inc, told TODAY that it was making the move for the firm to implement "effective changes to the product", such as the launch of an e-SIM.

"We have taken a decision to pause services for the next 60 to 90 days as we implement planned improvements,” he said.

TODAY has sought clarification on when is the start date for this 60- to 90-day period.

Gorilla was launched in June 2021 as the 13th telco here, leasing its network from telco M1.

It operates as a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO), which means it provides telecommunication services without owning its own infrastructure, tapping instead the existing networks provided by other main telcos.

M1 said that Gorilla ceased to be its MVNO partner as of May 20 last year.

Aside from providing mobile plans to Singapore customers, Gorilla's website shows that it offers non-mobile services as well such as cloud management services.

The firm was bought over in June last year by Society Pass Inc, a Vietnam tech firm that is listed on American stock market Nasdaq.

Singapore’s telco industry was for the longest time dominated by three main players — Singtel, StarHub and M1. Australian telco company TPG, which has since been renamed to Simba, clinched the coveted licence to be the fourth player in 2016. 

MVNOs such as Circles.Life, Grid Mobile, Gomo, Giga, Gorilla and a few others have since came onto the scene. 

One of the MVNOs, Zero Mobile, had its licence suspended by IMDA in March 2020 after it failed to address billing disputes with former subscribers.

The operator, which began in 2017, halted its services sometime in late 2019 saying that there was strong competition, at a time when there were more than 10 telcos operating in total, including MNVOs.

Another MVNO, Grid Mobile, bowed out in December 2021 after two years in operation.

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