Virgin Announces Internet Venture

Britain's Virgin Group made its Russian debut Thursday, breaking into the country's Internet business a few months after it unveiled big plans for Russia, including setting up an airline by 2010.

"I am delighted to announce Virgin's first business in Russia. … Virgin Connect will demystify the complex tariff jungle and bureaucracy seen in the market," Virgin Group's billionaire founder, Richard Branson, said in a statement.

Virgin Connect plans to take 10 percent of the country's broadband Internet market within five years, relying heavily on local players for help.

Only four months ago, Branson said he was "studying" the country's telecoms, Internet and mobile phone market. The telecoms market, like the airline sector, is on the country's list of strategic industries off-limits to foreign control.

But working with a locally established partner, Swiss-based Trivon, Virgin said it had acquired all the licenses to launch the Internet venture in 32 regions and the country's 20 largest cities.