The UK-based Virgin Group has announced plans to enter the Indian telecom market. The group’s chairman Richard Branson said that he has found an Indian partner to offer telecom services, as reported by business newspaper Economic Times.
Investment rules restrict foreign investment in telecoms service providers to 74%, which means foreign firms need a local partner to offer services in India. Other foreign mobile operators such as the UK-based Vodafone Group entered the Indian market through a controlling stake in mobile operator Hutchison Essar, while Singapore-based SingTel holds 31% in Bharti’s Airtel.
We have a telecoms partner now, and I will reveal all in two months’ time, said Mr Branson at a conference to mark the first anniversary of Virgin Radio’s tie-up with a media house.
The Indian telecom market is one of the fastest growing markets in the world. According to Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), the Indian mobile market crossed the 200 million subscribers mark in August 2007. The Indian government is aiming an industry target of half a billion cell phone subscribers by the year 2010.
TRAI has received 575 applications from 46 domestic and foreign firms to launch mobile services in some or all of the 23 zones that make up the country’s wireless map.
The Virgin Group currently offers mobile services as a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) in six countries, including the US, the UK and South Africa. An MVNO does not have its own network and offers services through the network of other service provider. Virgin Mobile UK was the world’s MVNO when it launched in 1999.
Mr Branson said that he is also interested in the domestic air transport sector and is waiting for India to relax its airlines policy, which prohibits foreign players from investing in this sector.
Source: ComputerWire daily updates