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State-owned telco BSNL said today that mobile based virtual network operators (MVNOs) that have shown interest for signing up with it for launching telecom services can do so by January 2017, according to this PTI report.

BSNL has already issued notices to these companies for setting up Virtual Network Enablers (VNE), which includes a package of services such as administration and allocation of spectrum, and installation of necessary hardware for launching telecom services, the report added.  A VNE package will allow for minimal investment for launching MVNO services. However, BSNL did not reveal the names of these companies.

VNOs are telecom service providers who provide services to users via a leased underlying network of a Network Service Operator (NSO) or telco, which they get at wholesale rates from telcos. They also work as a reseller for telcos, billing directly to its customers without operating technical facilities or tech support, relying on infrastructure providers for both.

70 companies have already applied for MVNO license

The DoT said that it had received more than 70 applications from companies in the country for acquiring an MVNO license, according to a Zee Business last month. Some of the companies which have applied include tablet device manufacturer DataWind and Kishore Biyani owned retail giant FutureGroup.

This was followed by Videocon Telecom’s announcement that it would be taking the MVNO route for rolling out its telecom services. Its telecom business operation has been on a standstill mode, and it recently sold its 1800MHz spectrum in 6 circles to Bharti Airtel for about Rs 4428 crore in May this year. It plans debut 4G operations in Punjab circle first via the MVNO route.

At an event a couple of weeks ago, a DoT official mentioned that although VNOs need to buy access services (sms, voice) from a single operator in a circle, they can get data by tying up with multiple operators. Earlier guidelines specified that VNOs can sign up with only one operator per access service. i.e. one for data, and another one for voice.

Guidelines and Entry Fee

The DoT had approved the entry of VNOs in India earlier in March. A company can acquire a MVNO in India under the Unified License agreement, with an entry fee of Rs 7.5 Crore for players looking to offer ‘all services’ including internet, and voice. MVNOs who want to offer their services on a pan-India basis will have to shell out Rs 15 lakh as entry fee, and up to Rs 1.25 crore for both nation and international long distance telecom license—as suggested by the TRAI through a recommendation paper released on May 2015.

India VNO License