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BSNL is mobile with CellOne
- Telecom major plans to start commercial service in October

New Delhi, Sept. 2: Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) today unveiled its cellular services CellOne with Union communications minister Pramod Mahajan again on hand to do the honours.

The commercial launch—that is when the phone service will be available to the consumers—is slated for next month and the details of the plans have yet to be worked out.

Although Mahajan reiterated once again that he was present as a guest of BSNL (a corporatised entity) and it was not his function, sources in communications ministry said the name CellOne and the elaborate function had been approved by him.

Right until last week, the brand was to have been B-mobile—a twin of the B-Fone cachet for the fixed line service—but the name was changed at the last moment.

The Rs 15 core laser show was to have featured Gul Panag, former Miss India and a leading model, along with Nafisa Joseph MTV VJ and Geetika Ganju, another model from Delhi. The programme was to have been compered by Tajeshwar Singh, publisher and newscaster. However, the whole programme was cancelled at the last minute and Sunil Tandon compered the show.

BSNL is planning an advertisement blitz for its cellular service. Sources in BSNL said, “The whole advertisement for the launch of the cellular service will cost us about Rs 230 crore annually. This includes the advertisement in dailies and visual media and bill boards.” Thus, BSNL will now become one of the heavy spenders joining Hindustan Lever and Bharti.

The state-owned telephony giant also launched its pre-paid cellular services called ‘Ex-cel’. The services will be available in 350 cities by October 2.

Launching the commercial brand, Mahajan, said, “All state capitals will be linked with the Cellone by this Gandhi Jayanti. By Christmas, 830 more cities would be connected through this,” he said.

By March 2003, all district headquarters will be covered under the services, Mahajan said adding the beauty of the public sector was that decisions were not based on “business cases but on need basis”.

Today also saw the launch of internet telephony to be called ‘Webfone’ would reduce the cost of international long distance communication (ISD) significantly.

Asked about the tariffs of BSNL’s cellular services, Mahajan said these were being worked out and would be announced soon.

Today’s event coincided with Mahajan’s one year in office and BSNL brought out a brochure—spending about Rs 2 lakh in the process—to highlight the progress it had made under Mahajan. The brochure quoted Mahajan as saying, “One year ago, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee gave me a responsibility, to “implement” his vision of connected India. Every minute, every hour, every day, the last one year we toiled. Here is our report card for you to see. For him to judge.”

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