Reliance aims to connect 3000 towns

By SiliconIndia   |   Wednesday, 31 December 2003, 08:00 Hrs
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BANGALORE: The Reliance group, a late entrant into the nation's booming mobile phone sector, aims to nearly treble its market share in a year with a cut-rate service that has taken taken a fifth of the market in less than a year.

"We expect to have more than 25 million subscribers by the end of next year while the total users in the industry should be around 40 to 50 million by that time," Prakash Bajpai, president of Reliance Infocomm, told Reuters.

The unit is 45 percent owned by Reliance Industries Ltd, India's largest private sector firm.

Within 12 months of launching its Reliance Infocomm service it has won over roughly 21 percent of India's 28 million mobile users. Reliance and other fixed-line services breaking into the mobile market use CDMA technology, the dominant wireless standard in the United States and parts of Asia, while most of the established mobile competitors use the GSM standard.

Bajpai, who joined Reliance 18 months ago from smaller player Hughes Telecom, said the sector would benefit from a recent government policy allowing fixed-line service providers, using CDMA, to offer full mobile services.

Established mobile firms had objected to the government rule, having already lost $2 billion of $5 billion they'd invested in India's nine-year old mobile sector under the assumption that fixed-line firms would be allowed to offer only limited mobility.

GSM firms last week withdrew their objections to the policy after the government cut license fees for them and promised to let foreign investors own a majority stake in the companies.

"Because of the telecom wrangle, a lot of potential subscribers were sitting on the fence," Bajpai said. "We now see an opportunity to go out and win customers."

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