Virgin Mobile to launch before Christmas

The Cable & Wireless Optus-backed mobile telecommunications company, Virgin Mobile Australia, will rely heavily on the success of Richard Branson's Virgin brand when it launches in the Australian market later this year.

With little publicly known about the company at this stage, branding seems to be the only determined factor in the company's short history.

Cable & Wireless Optus and the Virgin Group formally announced on Monday the formation of the joint venture company, which was first detailed in February in a Heads of Agreement by the two organisations.

According to Jean Oelwang, marketing director at Virgin Mobile Australia, the company is hoping to begin offering services by the end of the year; however, an exact launch date is yet to be confirmed.

Oelwang said a key differentiator for Virgin Mobile as it enters the burgeoning local mobile market will be its strong branding. "We will be starting with a brand known (to customers)," Oelwang said.

"We will focus on giving customers a fair go . . . we will focus on the people side not the technology side," she said.

The exact nature of Virgin Mobile's offerings is not yet known, although according to a report by IDG Communications in February this year, the company is believed to be offering services including simple tariffs, contract and pre-paid mobiles, wireless internet and fixed-wire communications. Additionally, Virgin Mobile is hoping to deliver other services including airline ticket sales, music content and financial services using its phones.

Virgin's target market will be "the young at heart, work hard, play hard" customers, Oelwang said.

"It's not one demographic segment . . . we attract a wide range of people," she said.

Andrew Grant, formerly general manager for strategy and business development at CWO, has been appointed managing director of Virgin Mobile.

The remaining management team will be announced next week, Oelwang said.

Meanwhile, the introduction of Virgin Mobile is not expected to impact on CWO's other mobile divisions, including internet telephony company Dingo Blue.

"(Dingo Blue and Virgin Mobile) are in two different markets . . . we are glad to have Virgin Mobile onboard for our mobile wholesale business," a CWO spokesperson said.

Oelwang agreed that the companies would target different markets. She also said branding would become increasingly important in the telecommunications industry in the future.

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