Datawind to invest Rs 100 crore in Indian telecom services

The Canadian company has applied for a VNO license in India to provide data services at Rs 200 per year.

According to reports, Canadian tablet maker Datawind is attempting to obtain a virtual network operator (VNO) licence in India, which will allow it to provide mobile telephony and data services in partnership with other telecom operators in the country. Datawind President and CEO Suneet Singh Tuli stated that they expect to get the licence within the next month from the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB), and plan to invest Rs 100 crore in the telecom services business via FDI within the first six months. This will help them launch their business with a focus on providing data services at rates as low as Rs 200 year.

Taking advantage of a policy launched last year in March, the mobile device maker is already in talks to purchase data bandwidth and voice minutes from Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) and resell it to less-penetrated regions of the country. The policy, introduced by the telecom department, lets small entrepreneurs buy data bandwidth and voice minutes in bulk from other telecom operators and resell it without actually owning any network or airwaves.

Tuli further expressed concerns that the world will likely miss the 2020 deadline set by United Nations to provide affordable Internet access for all, as cost-effective data offering is still a long way away. To work towards that goal, he said, Datawind is relying on its compression technology to roll out high-speed data services with data recharge vouchers priced at Rs 20 per GB.

Currently, the most affordable data plan being offered in India is by telecom giant Reliance, under the Jio brand, which plans to offer unlimited calling and SMS services for Rs 303 per month, along with 1GB of Data at 4G speed per day. The service is to start from April 1st, and will be available to customers who register for the Jio Prime service, before March 31st.

According to PTI reports, Tuli said, “Jio’s Rs 300 plan is affordable for those who have been spending Rs 1,000-1,500 per month. This would be only top 300 million people. Rest of the people spends around Rs 90 a month and for them, it’s not that cheap. We will look at data plans around Rs 20 per month or lesser. One year of data service should not be more than Rs 200.”

Datawind recently partnered with educational content and app maker Vismaad to launch the first ever Punjabi education tablet called VidyaTab, and is reported to have a daily production capacity of 5,000 tablets in its Amritsar plant and 10,000 in its Hyderabad plant. Tuli also added that they plan to set up a third plant somewhere in the Eastern part of India, although the plan is currently on hold as of now. The idea is to not only provide affordable data services, but also affordable devices that can use them, with preloaded content in a range of Indian languages like English, Punjabi, Hindi, Telugu and more. 

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