The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Reliance basic phones by December

Calcutta, Oct. 3: Reliance is gearing up for the national launch of its basic telephone service through Reliance Infocom on December 28, Dhirubhai Ambani’s birthday.

Sources said Reliance Infocom, the group’s telecom arm, has been asked to complete the work in as many circles as possible before the launch date. “What could have been a better day than the birthday of a legend to enter into a new area. Chairman Mukesh Ambani has visited several places to oversee the project,” they said.

“We are working hard to lay optic-fibre cables in circles we have licences for. More than half of our project should be completed before the launch,” the sources added.

In the first phase, basic and WLL (wire-less in local loop) services will be offered in nine of the 18 circles the company has bagged. What is not clear is the sequence — that is the areas where it will pan out first.

“Optic-fibre cables have been laid over 30,000 kms across the country. In states like Gujarat, the work is almost complete. In other areas too, the project is at an advanced stage,” they added.

It has tied up with South Korea’s LG group to procure WiLL handsets. “These code-division multiple access (CDMA) handsets will be a little expensive, but we have preferred it because it is the technology of the future,” they said, adding that the prices will not be prohibitive.

The group has also decided to invest Rs 100 crore in a unit that will be set up in Kutch to manufacture CDMA handsets. Reliance Infocom will be entitled to a five-year tax holiday for investing in the quake-ravaged region. “We should be able to manufacture our own WLL handsets by the next financial year. They will be available at cheaper rates,” the sources said. Talks with several foreign companies to get technical know-how for the handset are already under way.

Meanwhile, Reliance Infocom is setting up over 1,000 retail outlets in major cities and towns to provide “one-stop-solution” to all telecom requirements. Sources said this will cost the company around Rs 750 crore.

About 30 per cent of the shops will be company-owned and managed; the rest will be given to franchisees. “The company intends to spread its retail network to 500 centres by the current fiscal,” the sources said.

Each outlet, spread across 800-2000 square feet in key commercial locations, will offer the entire range of telecom services, ranging from phone and internet connections to equipment such as telephone instruments.

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