More choices for voice and data services as virtual network operators get approval from telecom commission

Indian telecom users will soon get more choices for voice and data services because the telecom commission has given a go ahead to virtual network operators (VNOs) to start operating in India. This move will also give telecom companies some more options to monetise their unused airwaves.

VNOs provide mobile services without owning any spectrum or mobile infrastructure, by buying bulk talk time and bandwidth from a telecom operator and reselling it to users under its own brands.

It was on Monday that the Telecom Commission approved this new category of unified licence for VNOs; the entry fee would be Rs 7.5 crore for the providers who want to offer all services under their umbrella. For others, the fee ranges from Rs 15 lakh for national-level Internet services to Rs 1.25 crore for a long-distance telecom licence. The permits, once provided, would be valid for 10 years.

The commission also questioned TRAI's pricing formula for 4G airwaves in the 700 MHz band and the suggestion it had given to sell all available spectrum in the band. TRAI, which had recommended record high prices for the efficient 4G bandwidth, will be required to respond in 15 days, after which the commission will take a final call.

About how Mobile VNOs will not be in direct competition with the telcos, they would provide differentiated services to customers by targeting only niche market segments such as retail, business, roaming, etc, and the fact that they are less costlier than major wireless companies’ services, consumer would also benefit from these VNOs.

Major players in this field include Virgin Mobile, Tracfone, Tesco, Lebara Mobile, Lyca Mobile, TalkMob, Giffgaff and Poste Mobile.

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