Virgin Mobile is in talks with Russian mobile operators over a possible MVNO launch, Richard Branson has told Reuters.

Speaking at an event in Moscow this week, the Virgin boss said that the firm was prepared to invest up to US$1 billion in a Russian mobile venture.

"[The MVNO model] has worked really well in other countries and we think it will work well in Russia," Branson said. "We use their networks, and they use our brand."

But he hinted that the venture could hinge on the group's airline, Virgin Atlantic, securing London-Moscow flight slots, a request that was recently refused. 

"I'm hoping that Virgin Atlantic will get up and fly here next year, but we are waiting for feedback," Branson said.

According to reports last month, Virgin Mobile is looking to raise around US$100 million from investors to fund an expansion into as many as six new markets.

The firm has MVNOs up-and-running in nine countries, and has launched in two new markets already this year: Chile and Poland.