Virgin plans mobile joint ventures in China and India

Virgin Group Ltd. is looking to launch mobile operations in China and India within the next 18 months through joint venture deals the London-based company said Tuesday.

Virgin is in discussion with several Chinese telecommunications companies about a mobile phone venture that would serve mainland China, and has reserved US$300 million for its half of the proposed joint venture, according to Virgin spokesman Steven Day.

Day declined to name any potential partners.

Richard Branson, the founder, chairman and owner of Virgin Group is keen to enter the mobile market in China, which has over 300 million mobile subscribers and is the fastest-growing mobile market in the world. Branson also indicated he'd be interested in offering services using 3G (third-generation) technology in that market.

Additionally, Virgin is also holding discussions with some of India's biggest mobile operators for a possible partnership.

Branson expects it will be 12 to 18 months before Virgin mobile services in either China or India are launched, Day said.

Virgin Group is the majority owner of Virgin Mobile Holdings (UK) PLC, the U.K.'s fifth-largest mobile phone company. The mobile virtual network operator uses the network of T-Mobile UK Ltd., which is part of the wireless arm of German telephone giant Deutsche Telekom AG.

In the U.S., Virgin has a deal with U.S. operator Sprint Corp., called Virgin USA, which is expected to be floated in an initial public offering next year.

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