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Videocon Telecom to re-appear as a VNO

To leverage its telecom expertise and assets, and 2G subscriber base in Punjab, gradually spreading later to other States

India's policy to permit virtual network operators (VNO) has attracted several companies with telecom expertise and assets, notably Videocon Telecom. The company is in exit mode as an operator, having sold spectrum in six circles to Airtel in April last. However, it still provides 2G mobile services in Punjab circle, and has a pan-India ISP licence

The company plans to offer pan-India mobile services, including 3G and 4G, maybe in the next 6-8 months, as a virtual network operator. A VNO provides telecom services like mobile landline and Internet, but only as a retailer for full-fledged telecom operators like BSNL and Airtel.

"We are in the final stage of applying for a Virtual Network Operator licence....MVNO roll-out usually is quick. Generally it should take about 6-8 months depending on the number of circles" says CEO Arvind Bali.

The company already has some of the required infrastructure for MVNO, including billing platform, service delivery platform, and VAS platform, according to Bali.

"We are in active discussions with more than one TSP (telecom service provider) for bulk buying of airtime & data (including 4G/3G), but given the nature of the deal and business dynamics, I think at this point in time it will not be possible to share the name of the telco(s). The way MVNO model operates worldwide, we may have more than one MVNO partner," Bali says.

In March, Videocon Telecom sold its 1800 Mhz band spectrum in six circles for Rs 44.28 billion to Bharti Airtel. It still holds 2G spectrum in Punjab. With the VNO licence, it plans to first upgrade mobile data services in this State, then expand to other circles.

"We plan to launch services in a phased manner; our first priority will be Punjab where we already have 3 million subscribers, followed by Haryana, Gujarat, MP and Delhi," Bali said. Videocon will even offer roaming services to its customers.

The Department of Telecom (DoT) had in June released licence guidelines for virtual network operators, opening the doors for new class of players which will act like retailers for telecom service providers. VNOs will use underutilised telecom infrastructure of telecom operators. This will help reduce cost of ownership to telcos, and enable them to offer services at more affordable rates.

For obtaining a VNO licence, companies need to pay a one-time non-refundable entry fee for authorisation of each service they want to provide and for each service area where they wish to operate.

Based on story in Express TechIE

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