The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Telecom tie-up in UK, jobs in India
- Rash of call centre openings awaited

London, May 7: India appears set to reap rich rewards from a '3.4-billion merger between NTL, Britain’s biggest cable TV company, which offers broadband, telephone and digital television, and rival operator Telewest, it was reported today.

Many of the 4,000 jobs that will be lost in the UK as a result of the deal concluded in March will be transferred to India, it was further claimed.

The NTL-Telewest tie-up is creating the UK’s dominant cable TV company, which will be able to compete with Rupert Murdoch’s pay-TV broadcaster BSkyB.

The combined entity will have TV, telephone and Internet customers in about 5 million UK households, compared with BSkyB’s 8 million subscribers.

The new group will also rival the British Telecom group as Britain’s second-largest residential telephone company.

NTL is expected to provide details of the consequences of the merger when it publishes its first quarter results on Tuesday, the Independent on Sunday has reported.

The paper, which has clearly been briefed by NTL insiders, said Telewest’s Woking head office will be closed and some of the staff moved to NTL’s existing head office, in Hook, Hampshire. “It is also understood that most of the combined group’s call centres will be outsourced, with some of the jobs going to offshore centres in India.”

It added: “NTL, which like former rival Telewest, grew by acquiring regional cable companies, has recently cut its 13 call centres in the UK to seven. It already has two outsourcing deals with IBM and Fujitsu. More outsourcing deals are expected to follow shortly as part of the restructuring to be announced this week. In addition to the job losses in call centres and head offices, cuts in marketing operations are predicted.”

The paper pointed out that “the two companies employ a combined workforce of just over 17,000 in the UK. The reductions to be unveiled this week mean that almost one in four employees will lose their posts.”

It is expected that the full integration of NTL and Telewest will take up to 18 months. NTL has indicated that merging the two businesses will save '250 million over the next three years.

India could get more outsourcing jobs as a result of the consolidation of the UK telecom industry. Mobile phone giant Orange announced plans last week to axe up to 2,000 jobs under a review of its operational costs. Rival telecoms firm Cable & Wireless warned in February that it may reduce its 5,500-strong UK workforce to between 2,500 and 3,500 over the next four to five years.

NTL has also taken over Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Mobile for '962 million, although India may get relatively few jobs out of this marriage. In future, customers will be offered the “quad play” of mobile phone, broadband, fixed-line telephone and cable television.

Although India has a growing number of Internet users, the future is Broadband, as anyone who has used it will know. Experts say that India’s economic revolution, especially in resurgant states such as West Bengal, can only be sustained if customers have access to dependable and fast Internet connections.

“I have been an NTL customer for some years and am wondering what benefits this merger will have for NTL'” reported one customer. “Telewest have a better service for broadband and their customer support, I have been told, is pretty good too. Will NTL broadband customers get the 10Mb lines that Telewest are getting' Or will NTL customers be second class citizens in this new cable world'”

Another commented: “In my (limited) experience, Telewest is a much more reliable, customer focused, customer friendly company when you compare them to the mighty BT and BSkyB; I know who I'd prefer to use. Let's hope they retain that focus and show their rivals how it’s done.”

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