The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Mobile minnows take aim at top guns

Mumbai, March 26: The Davids of the cellular industry have joined forces to take on the Goliaths. BPL Mobile, Escotel, RPG Cellular and Spice Telecom have coalesced into an alliance — MobileFirst— that will pitchfork their customers to the country’s largest network.

The quartet claim the link-up will usher in next-generation telecom services by pooling resources and infrastructure, and will help them collectively negotiate with handset makers like Nokia and Samsung for better bargains. “Their reach and strength will help them remain relevant at a time when fully integrated national players like MTNL, BSNL, Bharti and Reliance court customers,” analysts said.

Calling themselves the “first operators” in the Indian cellular world, the four firms have promised enhanced value in tariffs, roaming facilities, long-distance calling and new-generation technology to their three million subscribers who have remained loyal since the time mobile calls cost Rs 16 every minute.

“We will start rolling out new schemes in the coming weeks,” said BPL Mobile president F. B. Cardoso. The company, along with its three partners, clocks three billion national long-distance (NLD) minutes together — a bargaining chip that can be used effectively to get competitive rates from NLD and ILD operators.

MobileFirst will offer special tariffs for long-distance calls and roaming, besides tossing up customised tariff plans. In addition to this, the alliance will provide “seamless roaming” across India and over 400 international networks, besides a roaming-reward programme.

Subscribers will be able to pay for things like lottery tickets, vending machines, mobile internet access and location-based services through their phones.

No equity sharing is planned, and the arrangement, described by RPG Cellular MD Dilip R. Mehta as the telecom equivalent of Star Alliance in global aviation, does not signal a merger.

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