Branson jumps on the mobile bandwagon

BLOND BILLIONAIRE Richard Branson returned to the spotlight yesterday with the launch of Virgin Mobile, a 50:50 joint venture with One2One that is promising customers cheaper calls and simpler pricing with no-line rental fees.

Unlike the four existing mobile operators, Virgin Mobile won't subsidise handset prices, a practice that Mr Branson said leads to consumers being overcharged. "It's Rip-Off Britain at work again, with companies forcing consumers to pay more just because they can get it," Mr Branson said.

Noting the dizzying complexity of mobile tariffs available, he added: "That's obviously plain silly and something has to change."

Virgin Mobile, which aims to have a million customers by the end of next year, will sell its handsets in over 300 Virgin and Our Price stores as well as through the Internet and its cosmetics direct sales force. The seven phone models available will range from pounds 69.99 to pounds 379.99 with a further pounds 12.50 starter that includes pounds 10 of air time. Calls to UK fixed line phones and Virgin Mobile numbers will be charged at 15p per minutes for the first 10 minutes, 10p a minute for the next 10 minutes and 5p per minute for the rest of the day.

Calls to other mobile networks will cost 35p per minute due, Mr Branson said, to the higher tariffs charged by Virgin's mobile competitors. One2One will carry Virgin Mobile calls, but the service will carry the Virgin brand and Virgin will be responsible for customer billing and service.

Analysts expect the partners to invest pounds 100m over two years, including an immediate pounds 20m advertising blitz to exploit expected strong demand in the run up to Christmas.

The burgeoning mobile market led NTL, the cable and television transmission system operator, to declare yesterday that it is seeking a deal to buy capacity through a partnership with an existing network operator in the third generation licence auction due to take place in March.

"It's not an issue of financing," said Leigh Wood, NTL's chief operating officer. "It's an issue for us of being a complete communications company." Until now, industry observers have expected NTL to bid aggressively for one of the five licences to be offered, though Ms Wood said that remained an option for the company.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive: SThree: Did you know? SThree is a mul...

Guru Careers: C# Project Team Lead

£55 - 65k (DOE): Guru Careers: A unique opportunity for a permanent C# Develop...

Guru Careers: Graduate Editor / Editorial Assistant

£16 - 20k: Guru Careers: A Graduate Editor / Editorial Assistant is needed to ...

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Day In a Page

Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

Please save my husband

As the health of blogger Raif Badawi worsens in prison, his wife urges EU governments to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian royal family to allow her husband to join his family in Canada
Birthplace of Arab Spring in turmoil as angry Tunisians stage massive sit-in over lack of development

They shall not be moved: jobless protesters bring Tunisia to a halt

A former North African boom town is wasting away while its unemployed citizens stick steadfastly to their sit-in
David Hasselhoff's new show 'Hoff the Record': What's it like working with a superstar?

Hanging with the Hoff

Working with David Hasselhoff on his new TV series was an education for Ella Smith
Can Dubai's Design District 'hipster village' attract the right type of goatee-wearing individualist?

Hipsters of Arabia

Can Dubai’s ‘creative village’ attract the right type of goatee-wearing individualist?
The cult of Roger Federer: What is it that inspires such obsessive devotion?

The cult of Roger Federer

What is it that inspires such obsessive devotion?
Kuala Lumpur's street food: Not a 'scene', more a way of life

Malaysian munchies

With new flights, the amazing street food of Kuala Lumpur just got more accessible
10 best festival beauty

Mud guards: 10 best festival beauty

Whether you're off to the Isle of Wight, Glastonbury or a local music event, we've found the products to help you
Unai Emery’s passion for winning and eye for a bargain keep Seville centre stage in Europe

A Different League

Unai Emery’s passion for winning and eye for a bargain keep Seville centre stage in Europe, says Pete Jenson
Amir Khan and James DeGale’s remarkable Olympic performances were just the start of an extraordinary journey - Steve Bunce

Steve Bunce on Boxing

Amir Khan and James DeGale’s remarkable Olympic performances were just the start of an extraordinary journey
Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf