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Burden-ease bailout for CellOne mess

The controversy over Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL)’s CellOne project continued to ring loud and clear as the joint front of employees’ and officers’ unions and the Calcutta Telephones management locked horns during a marathon meeting on Monday.

According to CalTel sources, the management agreed “in principle” to give only post-paid connections to new CellOne customers till December 10. There are plans to provide 6,500 connections.

“A lot of tension has been caused by the problems that have cropped up over the functioning of CellOne in Calcutta. Monday’s meeting discussed all possible solutions,” said a CalTel official, after emerging from the brainstorming session.

Among the measures discussed on Monday was asking departmental officials below the rank of chief general manager and general manager to temporarily surrender their connections to help ease the connectivity load.

“More than 450 service connections, presently operational, might be withdrawn temporarily till March 2004. These customers will, instead, be given wireless local loop connections under the Tarang scheme,” the official said.

The much-hyped CellOne service of CalTel, launched in October-end, ran into rough weather from Day One. Faced by the clamour for connections, the service was saddled with a number of problems — shortage of towers, insufficient radio connectivity and an unmanageable number of roaming subscribers — creating congestion and causing confusion.

It was alleged that though the newly-converted Ericsson exchange had the capacity to handle nearly 100,000 subscribers, CalTel was planning not to provide new connections in large numbers due to lack of infrastructure.

While CellOne has roped in around 45 lakh customers around the country, CalTel has managed a meagre customer base of 24,000.

CalTel officials, however, said on Monday that “tests are being carried out and we are trying to stabilise our network before giving connections to new subscribers in large numbers”.

Monday’s meeting also decided that a majority of new post-paid connections would be released through the BSNL customer service centre.

The union representatives also requested the authorities to address the connectivity problem, which customers alleged they were facing in the BBD Bag and Esplanade areas. “They have promised to upgrade the base transmission system to solve the problem,” said a representative.

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