Branson targets Gulf markets with Virgin Mobile brand

Virgin Group owner Richard Branson is planning to extend the Virgin Mobile brand to the Middle East, and has already submitted a bid for an MVNO licence in Saudi Arabia.


According to CommsMEA, Virgin is interested in exploring several markets in the region via Virgin Mobile Middle East and Africa, or VMMEA, including the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Kuwait.

For the Saudi Arabia licence, the company has signed a preliminary agreement with operator Saudi Telecom (STC) to use its network. The kingdom's Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC) said a total of five companies have submitted applications for an MVNO licence, including Dubai-based Axiom, and consortiums headed by local companies FastNet and Safari and another that includes London-based Lebara.

Reuters noted that each of the kingdom's three operators -- STC, Etihad Etisalat (Mobily) and Zain Saudi--are expected to host an MVNO. The CTIC is expected to take 12 weeks to evaluate the bids.

As he awaits the outcome, Branson appears confident about the future prospects of Virgin Mobile as a brand in Saudi Arabia.

"I think the perception of Virgin in the Middle East is of a quality brand and I think that is how we will pitch the brand, but we will save details of exactly how we will present it until we have got a licence and then we will hopefully come out with guns blazing," CommsMEA quoted Branson as saying.

For more:
- see this CommsMEA article
- see this Reuters article

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