Mobile virtual network operators may be a common feature of the telecom landscape in many countries, but India has only just welcomed its first with the recent launch of broadband and international calling services in Tamil Nadu by a company called Aerovoyce.
A subsidiary of an Indian mobile payments specialist called Adpay, the new entrant plans to launch services in communities surrounding Salem, Coimbatore, Thanjavur, Cuddalore and Kanyakumari during the first phase of its rollout. Initially, it says, it will focus on townships and rural locations where the population size is between 10,000 and 50,000 people.
In a press release, Aerovoyce said it would market a range of cheaper tariffs for voice and data services, bundling these with its mobile wallet offerings. It will also provide so-called "very small aperture terminals" (VSATs) to support Internet services inside buildings.
On the fixed-line side, Aerovoyce has also revealed that it will target both enterprise customers and residential users. It is offering a fiber broadband service priced at a monthly rate of 249 Indian rupees ($3.80) for a 4Mbit/s deal and INR2,999 ($46.40) for a 150Mbit/s one. Its international calling cards, meanwhile, will be available at airport kiosks and various retail stores.
Aerovoyce aims to capture 100,000 customers in the first three months of operations and intends to invest about 3 billion Indian rupees ($46.4 million) over the next three years in the business.
India's Department of Telecommunications approved the release of licenses for MVNOs last year, with Adpay securing a license in December. Media reports suggest the DoT received around 80 applications for MVNO licenses in total.
But offering MVNO services in India is not straightforward. An MVNO must find a different network partner for each type of service it wants to offer, for one thing. Aerovoyce has not revealed details of its current network partner or partners but may need to find others as it adds services and expands into new markets. And with India's telecom market in the throes of consolidation, a new rival is the last thing many operators want.
That said, with telcos desperate to survive, some might view MVNOs as a potential opportunity to expand networks into the country's hinterland. Operators with vast amounts of capacity could stand to gain from the MVNO developments.
— Gagandeep Kaur, contributing editor, special to Light Reading