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Virtual telco Gorilla changes announcement to stop mobile plans, will now 'pause services’ for 60 to 90 days

SINGAPORE — Some hours after Gorilla Mobile publicly announced that it will discontinue its mobile phone plans in Singapore with effect from Jan 31, its parent company said on Tuesday (Jan 17) that the telecommunications (telco) firm will suspend such services for a period of two to three months.

Virtual telco Gorilla changes announcement to stop mobile plans, will now 'pause services’ for 60 to 90 days
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  • Virtual telco Gorilla publicly announced on Jan 17 that it will be discontinuing its local mobile plans with effect from Jan 31
  • However, it made several changes to the announcement on its website on the same day
  • Its parent company then separately told TODAY that Gorilla was going to "pause services” for the next 60 to 90 days
  • Gorilla Mobile is one of many mobile virtual network operators in Singapore
  • At least two of such operators have bowed out from the saturated market here in recent years

SINGAPORE — Some hours after Gorilla Mobile publicly announced that it will discontinue its mobile phone plans in Singapore with effect from Jan 31, its parent company said on Tuesday (Jan 17) that the telecommunications (telco) firm will suspend such services for a period of two to three months.

Replying to TODAY's queries, Mr Rokas Sidlauskas, chief marketing officer of Society Pass Inc, which is the parent company, said: “In order to be able to implement effective changes to the product (a 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. 

“Gorilla 2.0 will retain its original features, which will be re-introduced in phases, and plans to continue to operate in the local mobile plan category of services in the future.”

Gorilla Mobile, now known in recent times as Gorilla.Global or Gorilla Networks, was launched in June 2021 as the 13th telco firm here.

When asked about the number of users affected, Mr Sidlauskas did not respond directly but said that existing Gorilla customers will retain their accounts with Gorilla.Global.

“Unfortunately, our local mobile plan has to be suspended due to technical upgrades, thus we have advised our customers who wish to maintain ongoing mobile service to move to another provider," he said.

He did not say when the suspension will take effect but added that Gorilla will provide necessary support to help its customers migrate their accounts to a new telco.

“We understand and sympathise with this inconvenience, however, we do believe that enhanced product experience and better service will only benefit Gorilla.Global users in the future.”

Gorilla operates as a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO), meaning it provides telco services without owning its own telecommunications infrastructure, tapping instead the existing networks provided by other main telcos.

Gorilla's website shows that it offers non-mobile services as well such as cloud management services.

At its launch, Gorilla said that it would be leasing its network infrastructure from M1.

When contacted by TODAY, M1 said: “We can confirm that Gorilla Mobile has ceased to be an MVNO partner of M1 as of 20th May 2022.”

CHANGING ANNOUNCEMENTS

A screenshot of an email from Gorilla to its subscribers, which was posted on a private Facebook group on Tuesday and seen by TODAY, read: “It is with a heavy heart that Gorilla Mobile would like to announce the discontinuation of our local mobile plan with effect from 31st January 2023.

“Gorilla Mobile has decided to construct a major overhaul on our current business model to enhance a greater service for our subscribers.”

The Facebook user who published the post confirmed with TODAY that the email was sent on Monday.

The email thanked subscribers for their support, apologised for “all the inconvenience caused by the team’s decision” and sought their cooperation “in making this closure a smooth transaction for both of us”.

A similar but brief notice was seen on the company’s website main page in the early afternoon on Tuesday.

“Gorilla local mobile plans will be discontinued w.e.f 31 January 2023. All current subscribers to look out for our notification email for further details and action required. Please contact us at support [at] gorilla.global if you have not received the notification by 17 January 2023,” the notice read.

However, by about 6.45pm, the notice on the main page was changed to: “Gorilla Local Mobile plans will be discontinued until further notice.”

The notice was further updated sometime after 8pm to read: “Gorilla Mobile plans will be discontinued progressively. The cessation date will be announced later.”

TODAY has sought clarification from Gorilla and Society Pass Inc regarding the change in notifications on its website and when the suspension of services here will take effect.

‘OPERATIONS WILL REMAIN IN SINGAPORE’

A month after Gorilla stopped being an MVNO partner of M1, it was bought over in June last year by Society Pass Inc, a Vietnam tech firm that is listed on American stock market Nasdaq.

Mr Sidlauskas of Society Pass Inc said in response to TODAY’s earlier queries that Gorilla’s operations will remain in Singapore.

“We remain committed to the Singapore market and plan to expand Gorilla. Global operations across Southeast Asia — specifically in Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand — to complement other Society Pass ventures and provide further value to our customers,” he added.

Mr Sidlauskas said that Gorilla does not operate any mobile business outside Singapore, but has plans to expand into at least four other Southeast Asian markets “after the upgrade and revamp in 2023”.

Leading up to its launch in June 2021, Gorilla’s founder and chief executive officer Xanne Leo told TODAY then that there would be 15 employees in Singapore and another three in Thailand.

Asked on Tuesday whether there would be any retrenchment of employees given the developments, Mr Sidlauskas said that the discontinuation of mobile plans was a “planned and scheduled technical undertaking” and that Gorilla is hiring regionally.

Singapore’s telco industry was for the longest time dominated by three main players — Singtel, StarHub and M1.

Australian telco company TPG 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 came onto the scene later. 

One of the MVNOs, Zero Mobile, had its licence suspended by the Infocomm Media Development Authority (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.

Experts previously told TODAY how an oligopolistic market might lead to players having a tacit arrangement among themselves and behave opportunistically such as by raising prices.

However, a cut-throat price competition causing players to withdraw from a highly saturated market would also make consumers worse off in the long run, the experts added.

TODAY has reached out to IMDA for comments on the latest developments for Gorilla.

Related topics

Gorilla Mobile MVNO telco

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