‘Disillusioned’ Branson to back out of Virgin experiment?

26 Feb 2013

According to an unconfirmed report by online journal Izvestia.ru, Richard Branson’s Virgin Group has distanced itself from plans to launch as a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) in Russia, with the tycoon also set to call time on long-running WiMAX provider Trivon, which offers services under the ‘Virgin Connect’ banner. The company possesses WiMAX-suitable spectrum in the 5.7GHz-6.5GHz frequency bands, covering 32 Russian regions, including Moscow, St Petersburg and ‘the 20 largest cities in Russia’, but has struggled to grow its business effectively. Citing a source familiar with the matter, Izvestia claims that Branson is ‘disillusioned’ and considers that ‘Virgin Connect is not of interest as an asset that could be developed’.

As reported by TeleGeography’s CommsUpdate, in November 2012 Branson said that Virgin could invest up to USD1 billion in Russia-focused businesses if its dual plans for an MVNO and a Virgin Atlantic London-Moscow flight slot come to fruition. The tycoon said: ‘We use their networks, and they use our brand. It has worked really well in other countries and we think it will work well in Russia’. Both Tele2 Russia and MegaFon were named as potential mobile network operator (MNO) partners as the initial plans gathered pace.

Russia, Virgin Connect (Trivon), Virgin Group