An ironic twist to the entire MVNO saga: Tata Teleservices (TTSL) MD Anil Sardana has said that they have exclusive rights over the Virgin brand in India, reports CNBC-TV18. TTSL is claiming the right of first refusal, which allows them to prevent Virgin from tieing up with any other telecom operator. So does this mean that Virgin Mobile cannot apply for an MVNO license without TTSLs approval?
Did Virgin Mobile shoot itself in the foot? Richard Branson had told ET, at the time when the service was launched, that “In another nine months, when the new GSM players start rolling out their services, we would look to offer similar services on GSM as well.” Remember that they have entered India at a time when MVNOs are not legal, and hence done a joint venture with CDMA telco Tata Teleservices. The JV was initially the subject of much scrutiny from competitors and even the government – but the arrangement was deemed legit by those in power.
That debate over Virgin as an MVNO then led to Department of Telecom (DoT) announcing that they’re open to MVNOs in India, and eventually the telecom regulator TRAI announced guidelines for allowing MVNOs in India. No date has been set yet for the final policy, which will be announced by the Department of Telecom. In its present form, we believe the guidelines favour telecom operators, and make it difficult for MVNOs to switch telecom operators anyway. More on that here.