The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Telecom’s city cousin bites the dust

Calcutta, Dec. 4: A month for West Bengal Telecom is equal to a year for Calcutta Telephones.

Confused with the flexibility of the BSNL calendar' But the figures — and they cannot lie —show that, say Union communications ministry officials here.

Poor cousin West Bengal Telecom has succeeded in doing in a month what the more-celebrated BSNL arm, Calcutta Telephones, did in — roughly — a year. The number of mobile-phone subscribers in the West Bengal Telecom net — a month after it started operations — is roughly equal to the number Calcutta Telephones has managed in about a year.

Calcutta Telephones, according to the latest figures on the mobile service-providers’ association website, has managed to convince a little more than 11,000 Calcuttans about the efficacy of its mobile service. West Bengal Telecom, say BSNL officials, has already managed to outdo that figure, with both its pre-paid (Excell) and post-paid (CellOne) services doing equally well.

BSNL officials are “surprised” about one aspect of — what they described as — “a healthy rivalry” between the cousins. Unlike Calcutta Telephones, which tried — as it would appear — unsuccessfully, its own version of a media blitz, West Bengal Telecom has not spent a paisa on publicity.

Various reasons are on offer for the “surprising public response”. First, the network provided by West Bengal Telecom is much vaster; 32 major towns in the state and outside are in the network and 22 — including most of the major ones like Asansol, Siliguri, Gangtok, Kharagpur, Krishnagar, Behrampore, Suri and Bolpur — have already been brought under the West Bengal Telecom mobile umbrella.

The network has been designed in a manner to include two parallel lines — comprising the two National Highways (NH-6 and NH-34) — within it even if they are not very close to the 32 towns under the Excell and Cell One umbrella, say officials.

Technology, too, has made a difference. Calcutta Telephones, officials said, was saddled with an indigenous technology and the city was made the laboratory for an experiment with the desi version.

West Bengal Telecom did not suffer from any such problem. The technology behind it was time-tested. The “teething problems” Calcutta Telephones faced — which contributed in a major way to the bad press its mobile service received — did not bog down the West Bengal Telecom services, the officials said.

The third factor, said officials, was the West Bengal Telecom call-centre that, despite being in Calcutta, can serve subscribers in Orissa.

The reasons may vary but that has not stopped West Bengal Telecom from taking a few digs at the “quality of service” offered by Calcutta Telephones.

West Bengal Telecom now stands the risk of being pulled down by the quality of service offered by Calcutta Telephones, officials said. “Whenever a West Bengal Telecom subscriber crosses into Calcutta Telephones territory, he is lost on the radar.” Calcutta Telephones’ “visiting location register” could be behind the problem, an official said.

“Getting lost in Calcutta is the only major complaint we have received till date,” a West Bengal Telecom official said.

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