The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Reliance turns wireless wizard

Mumbai, Dec. 26: With D-Day only a few hours away, all eyes are on Reliance Industries.

The groupís ambitious plans of ruling the wireless world will take shape tomorrow, when it rolls out its limited mobility services through Reliance Infocomm. This will be the groupís second mega project after its 27-million tonne refinery in Jamnagar, Gujarat. However, it is also a first of sorts, as Reliance will enter the service industry in a big way for the first time.

Reliance is currently in the process of distributing nearly 78 lakh handsets across the country through its franchisees as well as its own network. The budget for handsets alone could rival the budget of a setting up infrastructure for a cellular circle in the country.

RILís mega gamble unfolds tomorrow when Pramod Mahajan, who dons the regulatorís cap as minister of communications and information technology and, ironically, presides over Reliance Infocommís rivals Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd (MTNL), launches the project.

On the bourses, the Reliance share pierced the 300 levels to settle at Rs 300.35, gaining Rs 8.95 from its previous close of Rs 291.40.

Reliance is expected to make pricing its USP, with very competitive tariffs. However, interconnect agreements with rivals from the basic telephony and cellular worlds are yet to be signed. Whether its rivals will sign without giving it a tough time remains to be seen. Till then, calls may not be passed to those networks. Nevertheless, the air hangs heavy with anticipation, as rivals prefer to wait and watch for the giantís next move.

Further, the Reliance rollout will be another shot in the arm for the wireless in local loop (WiLL) technology, currently the target of cellular mobile operators. Globally, both the GSM and WiLL technologies have co-existed, but what remains to be seen is whether the story is repeated here. WiLL is known to be a superior carrier of data and can also carry voice appreciably.

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