Dangerman Branson Launches Virgin Mobile

The charismatic Richard Branson has done it again. Suspended from a helicopter, looking like Santa in red combat gear, he swept into Cockle Bay in Sydney's CBD to set Australia's mobile phone 'freedom fighters' free. Upon releasing the 'freedom fighters' (from a gaol cell on top of a pontoon in the middle of the bay), Branson went for a spin around the bay on a jet ski, thereby launching Virgin Mobile and the freedom fighters swam to shore.

The $100 million investment, jointly owned by Cable & Wireless Optus and Virgin, will use the Optus network in Australia and offer no contracts and one variable tariff.

"If you don't find it ridiculously easy and cheap, I will shave off my beard!" Branson said.

Branson said he has no plans to buy a mobile phone network in Australia when "we can piggy-back other networks".

Andrew Grant, managing director for Virgin Mobile, believes there is room for another mobile phone company in Australia as there will be "five million customers coming into the market within the next five years, and of the nine million Australians who currently own a phone, 35 per cent are not happy with the service or contract terms".

"We expect to make a profit by year three," Grant said.

The company will offer only one plan and rates will automatically adjust according to usage. Customers are able to switch between prepaying for their phone usage or paying monthly, with phones and start-up kits to be available from Virgin Mobile stores to be launched in Sydney and Melbourne this week, and from other retail outlets.

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