Datawind, Bluetown show interest to set-up VNO biz in India


21 Jun 2013
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Aakash tablet maker Datawind and Denmark's Bluetown are interested in offering telecom services as virtual network operators (VNOs) and will apply for the licence once the government notifies new rules.

While Canada's Datawind is planning pan-India operations, Bluetown through an Indian arm will look at Bihar, Jharkhand, North East, Haryana and Rajasthan.

Inter-ministerial panel Telecom Commission earlier this week had paved the way for VNOs, who will be providing telecom services in partnership with a local operator. VNOs will lease bandwidth from operators to sell voice and data services to customers, like a retailer, under its own brand name.

VNOs will also be able to provide own billing plans and are expected to push tariff war in the market.

"As per reports, government will put VNO licence in place within a month. We will apply for a pan-India permit and expect to start operation within six months," Datawind president and CEO Suneet Singh Tuli said.

He said Datawind has already operated as VNO in the UK, Germany and Australia during 2007-11.

"We are rolling out wi-fi and broadband projects in partnership with BSNL. VNO opens an opportunity for us to decide on our own tariff. Our focus is on rural broadband. With VNO we will providing calling service in over-the-top format.

"We will look at VNO permit in Bihar, Jharkhand, North East, Rajasthan and Haryana to begin with in partnership with companies like BSNL," Bluetown Country Managing Director Satya N Gupta said.

The VNO, however, will not be allowed to set-up equipments to directly connect network of other network or a non-partner. They will be dependent on their partner for connecting with various networks.

Earlier India had seen Virgin Mobile, which was operating on a VNO model but at that time such business model was not allowed.

VNO players are expected to reduce marketing and sales costs of telecom companies struggling in the sector, besides sharing some operational expenses too.

Both the companies are looking at partnering BSNL. When contacted, BSNL Chairman and Managing Director Anupam Shrivastava said it is a huge opportunity for the state-run firm and VNOs can help in selling telecom services.

"We have huge bandwidth resources. BSNL can supply in bulk. We only lack in marketing and servicing customers where VNOs can help us," Shrivastava added.
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