India DoT to scrutinise Virgin Mobile, Tata deal

India's Telecommunications Ministry is studying the fine print of an agreement between Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Mobile and Tata Teleservices for mobile services to see if it complies with licensing norms of the country, an Economic Times report said.

The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has asked its licensing wing to look into the nuances of the deal under which Tata will provide Virgin-branded mobile services, using CDMA technology, the report said.

Rival operators have alleged this amounts to Virgin's entry as a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO), which the partners deny, the report added.

Aside from the DoT, the finance ministry may also look into the proposed partnership.

Sources said the telecom regulator Trai would only look into the issue if asked by the DoT.

'We have not seen the agreement between both companies, so we cannot comment. But we are very interested in studying the details of the JV. Both companies have already briefed the DoT on this issue before they announced the JV,' a Trai source said, quoted by the report.

GSM operators may ask the DoT to get the JV details made public and demand that the DoT set up a committee with industry representation to look into the MVNO question, the source added.

An MVNO does not own spectrum or infrastructure, but runs a service by leasing facilities.

Tata officials said that the company has not been approached by the authorities yet and would comply with the regulatory requests when approached.