State-run telco BSNL has secured its first MVNO partnership: It tied up with ADPAY, a Chennai-based mobile wallet company which runs an MVNO brand called Aerovoyce.  BSNL had opened its network for MVNOs in October last year. Aerovoyce initially launched its broadband and international calling services in April, and had secured an MVNO license from the DoT prior to the launch. Note that BSNL and ADPAY had earlier partnered for direct carrier billing.

BSNL is Aerovoyce’s cellular partner. Aerovoyce will ride on BSNL’s spectrum, but offer voice and data under its own brand name. The Chennai-based company said it will distribute SIM cards for purchase via phone, online, kiosks, select retail stores across India and at Airports. An MVNO (Mobile Virtual Network Operator), is an entity which buys telecom services (calling, data, SMS etc) in bulk from multiple telecom operators, and provides them to its customers, as a part of a differentiated offering. Virtual operators act as an aggregator of telecom services.

What Aerovoyce plans to do

While securing the DoT in April, Aerovoyce’s CEO Sivakumar Kuppusamy told MediaNama that the company will start with TN circle but move onto more circles in the future. The company also claims to have invested more than Rs 300 crore into its MVNO business and additionally plans to bundle ‘ADPAY mobile wallet services with its voice and data connections. Currently, ADPAY provides operator billing, Mobile WAP/VAS, mobile ad networks and payment services to telecom companies.

Aerovoyce will be focusing on “townships and rural areas” with a population of above 10,000 – 50,000. In the first phase, the company launched (broadband) in cities like Salem, Coimbatore, Thanjavur, Cuddalore and Kanyakumari in the Tamil Nadu circle. It will also provide commercial VSAT infrastructure for providing Internet in closed buildings and other Value Added Services like movies, sports updates, music, etc. It also has plans to provide specialised data only SIM cards for IoT-based devices.

Private telcos might not be open for MVNOs

Private telcos in the country are consolidating and stacking up spectrum/bandwidth capabilities to combat Jio, a 4G only operator in 22 circles. This has led them to financial stress, mounting debt, mergers, and even partial shutdown. At a time like this, telcos like Airtel, Idea, Vodafone might not look at MVNOs as a revenue opportunity, especially when the market is returning lower ARPUs.

But this isn’t the case of state run entities. An ET report pointed out that BSNL was approached by several companies in the past including Spectranet, Oxygen and DataWind for an MVNO. But it seems like, the state telco is yet to secure a launch with those companies. BSNL’s CMD Anupam Shrivastava told the publication that Jio’s launch makes it difficult for MVNO services to thrive, but for it, MVNOs are a revenue making opportunity.