DataWind in talks with telecoms to enter VNO business

Suneet Singh Tuli, CEO of DataWind
DataWind Inc., the makers of tablets, is in talks with several telecom network operators to enter the Indian virtual network operator (VNO) business.

The strategy of Datawind will be to bridge the digital divide, and it intends to utilize its web delivery platform to help deliver affordable internet access to bring the next billion Indians online. Datawind plans to launch VNO services before Diwali, a major festival in India.

On Thursday, the India government announced guidelines for VNOs.

Suneet Singh Tuli, CEO and founder of DataWind, said: “We are in discussions with key network operators and intend to file our application for a VNO license shortly, with a target launch date before Diwali.”

Despite significant growth in telecom penetration over the last few years, India still remains a country with almost 500 million without access to telecom services, and almost 1 billion people without internet access.”

Suneet Singh Tuli says affordability, education and access remain the key barriers to accelerating telecom and internet penetration. “Innovative solutions by companies focused on this segment are necessary to empower the common man with communication technology.”

DataWind tops tablet market

The entry of DataWind will be watched by the Indian telecom operators because DataWind has already revolutionized the Indian tablet market, where its is the market leader with 27.6 percent share in the first quarter of 2016.

Datawind achieved the success after competing with smartphone leader Samsung and device companies such as Apple, Micromax, Lenovo, iBall, among others.

Leading market research agency IDC says Datawind’s tablet shipments grew at 33.5 percent in Q1 2016 over the previous quarter. Shipments of Datawind doubled year-on-year showing a sharp trajectory in the last one year. Datawind’s television channel partners played an important role in this quarter’s growth through their aggressive marketing and selling during mid-quarter.

DataWind is the first device maker to share its plans to enter the Indian VNO business. The market is expecting that a couple of foreign companies will also be looking for the Indian VNO space.

It will not be easy to run a VNO business in India and achieve share in the country which has 900 million plus SIM connections. India’s mobile service business is dominated by Bharti Airtel, a company promoted by Indian businessman Sunil Mittal. Vodafone, Idea Cellular, Reliance Communications and BSNL are the other big telecom network operators in India.