Virgin in talks to enter India's wireless industry

Ratan Tata of the Tata Group and Richard Branson of the Virgin empire are planning to form an alliance to introduce the Virgin Mobile brand in India, a source familiar with the matter, quoted by a Times of India report said.

The source said the Virgin Group is in talks with Tata Teleservices for the possibility of Virgin Mobile acting as a MVNO which will buy bulk space from an existing wireless company and resell it under the Virgin brand.

However, this model is not yet allowed in India, the report said.

Instead, Virgin is planning to become an exclusive franchisee of Tata Teleservices which is permitted in India, it added.

For this, a new entity largely owned by Tata Teleservices will be formed, the source said. The products and services will be bundled under Virgin name, supported by the services provided by Tata Teleservices.

The source added that discussions so far has been good and if all goes well with the regulatory approvals in place, Virgin Mobile would be launched in April this year. When contacted, a Tata group spokesperson declined to comment.

Though wireless subscribers in India have already crossed the 100 million mark, making India one of the top five markets in the world, still more than 50% of the population is to be covered by mobile services.