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TDSAT declines to stay TRAI order on removal of ADC to BSNL

NEW DELHI, Oct 1: In a setback to state-owned telecom giant BSNL, telecom tribunal TDSAT has declined to stay TRAI's directive to remove levy paid by private telecom operators to the PSU on incoming international calls in rural areas.

The Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal said since the main petition, in which the telecom PSU had challenged the phased reduction of levy known as Access Deficit Charge (ADC), was still pending, there was no urgent need to stay TRAI's decision to do away with ADC at this stage.

Meanwhile, the tribunal also pointed out that if it ruled in favour of BSNL, the private telecom operators would have to pay the ADC on incoming international calls in retrospect, as mandated in the main petition.

"Application is disposed of with a direction that the parties will abide by the decision of the main Appeal and will be bound by the same," said TDSAT bench headed by Chairman Justice Arun Kumar.

Access Deficit Charge is a levy paid by private telecom operators to BSNL for meeting the cost of unprofitable operations in rural areas for below the cost wire line and mobile services.

In the application, BSNL has submitted that as per the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India guidelines, ADC payable to it was ending from 30th September, 2009 and this was hampering its revenues.

"TRAI has reduced ADC payable on international incoming calls from Rs 1 to Rs 0.50 and this would phase out the same from October 1, 2008. Even ADC payable to BSNL on incoming calls would be completely stopped," said BSNL in its application.

Terming it as 'irrational and arbitrary decision' of TRAI, the PSU giant further submitted that to fund its rural obligations and to compensate the incurred losses, ADC should be allowed.

"Till such time BSNL is to provide below the cost wireline and rural telephony, it is entitled to the requisite amount of ADC in order to compensate the deficit incurred in providing these below the cost wirelines and rural telephony services," submitted BSNL.

Raising further question mark over TRAI's hurry in phasing out ADC, BSNL submitted, "When the appeals challenging the previous regulations on the same issue are pending before this tribunal, TRAI ought have to awaited decisions in the said appeals and ought to have restrained itself from issuing another regulation," said BSNl in its application.

The tribunal has clubbed all the previous three ongoing matters in which the telecom giant has challenged the ADC reduction for the financial year 2006-2007 and 2007-2008.

The tribunal has listed the main petition for next hearing on 22nd October.

As per its roadmap, the sectoral regulator has decided to abolish ADC from 2008-09. For the financial year 2007-08, TRAI had reduced ADC by 37 per cent to Rs 2,000 crore from Rs 3,200 crore.

Bharti may softlaunch DTH service in October

NEW DELHI, Sept 30: Sunil Mittal's Bharti group is likely to softlaunch its direct-to-home service in the first week of October.

The company, according to industry sources, is hoping to get an FIPB approval before that. Market sources said the sales team has sounded out October 8 as the launch date.

A Bharti spokesperson said the company does not comment on market speculation, while adding "we have said we will launch our DTH service by this year".

Government had earlier asked Bharti group to seek a separate FIPB approval within three months for its upcoming DTH services.

"The DTH licensee Bharti Telemedia is ordered to seek separate FIPB approval within three months from the date of issue of this order," a directive issued by Information and Broadcasting Ministry on August 25 said.

The I&B order follows replies by the company to its earlier show-cause notice over alleged 'violation' of FDI and other guidelines.

As per the existing guidelines, any foreign investment in cable and broadcasting company requires FIPB approval. The bone of contention was Bharti Airtel, the group's mobile telephony arm holding 40 per cent stake in Bharti Telemedia, as well as having a cable operator's licence, owning over the permitted stake in the DTH arm.

"Bharti Airtel, which has a 40 per cent share in the DTH licensee company, is registered as a cable operator. The eligibility condition for DTH license provides that the licensee shall not allow broadcasting and/or cable network companies to collective hold or own more than 20 per cent of the total paid up equity in the DTH venture," the notice had said.

TataSky agrees to offer ESPN-Star channels on basic package

NEW DELHI: Direct-to-Home operator TataSky has submitted before broadcast tribunal TDSAT that it will continue to provide free signals of ESPN-Star group channels on its basic package till November this year.

"Counsel for the respondent (TataSky) clarifies that the respondent would continue to offer three free channels -- ESPN, Star Sports and Star Cricket -- to those subscribers who enrolled six months prior to June 1, 2008 up to November 30, 2008," said the TDSAT bench admitting TataSky's submission.

TataSky counsels filed the statement amidst arguments over a petition filed by one West Bengal-based Federation of Consumer Associations.

The company, which had altered its basic package and claimed to have cut the charges by Rs 40 to Rs 260, had removed some prime channels in June this year such as BBC, Ten Sports, ESPN, Star Sports, Star Cricket etc, from its basic package and asked its customers to pay additional fee to view these channels.

However, TataSky, a 80:20 joint venture between Tata and entertainment major Star had to later restore ESPN-Star group channels following the directions of the Delhi High Court.

Later, the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal permitted the company in August to withdraw the channels and reintroduce its add-on package.

The company, which is facing cases filed by consumer organisations before fair trade regulator MRTPC and broadcast regulator TDSAT over removal of channels, submitted before the tribunal's bench headed by Justice Arun Kumar that TRAI guidelines permitted it to reduce the number of channels on its platform.

BSNL to bid for MTNL's ILD tender

NEW DELHI, Sept 13: State-run BSNL will bid for the outgoing international call routing tender of MTNL.

"The company would participate in the tender and there is no PSU angle. It is just commercial consideration as BSNL has ILD infrastructure," a senior BSNL official said.

MTNL proposes to invite sealed bids from eligible Indian ILD operators for routing its international traffic of MTNL Delhi and Mumbai to various destinations around the world through an open tender. The bids will open in the last week of September. The likely date is September 23.

MTNL, which operates in Delhi and Mumbai and holds an ILD licence largely depends on other operator's network as it doesn't have its own infrastructure ready till date.

At present the PSU operator's international traffic is mainly routed by Tata Communication.

The fresh invitation from MTNL implies that it is looking at other ILD operators who can carry its outgoing ILD traffic at cheaper price than the prevailing rates, said MTNL officials.

However, the company is in the process of laying down its own submarine cable which would connect India to other countries like Singapore and Malaysia. The undersea cable can cut down ISD tariffs as the operational costs would fall substantially.

At present, the company charges in the range of Rs 6.40 to Rs 9.20 per minute for ISD calls to the US, Europe, Africa and Gulf countries.

Bharti Airtel, Reliance Communications, Tata and BSNL are the other ILD operators in the country.

MTNL to test launch 3G services in Delhi by Sept-end

NEW DELHI, Sept 11: State-run telecom firm MTNL will test launch the first ever 3G mobile services in the country in Delhi by the end of this month. The company will trial launch its services in and around the central Delhi, mainly around Connaught Place area, the Department of Telecommunications (DOT) said in a statement.

MTNL is planning to provide 3G services by installing 7,50,000 GSM lines each in Delhi and Mumbai. The telecom firm has already done the indoor trial of the service and will launch the high-end service in Delhi by the end of this year.

However, in Mumbai, the service will be launched early next year, it added.

In this regard, the company has already procured all the required equipment in this regard and currently mobilising the necessary radio equipment. 3G services will enable the users to get high speed data services, video streaming and better voice solutions. The company has already been allocated the scarce 3G spectrum much ahead of the auction scheduled to happen by the end of this month.

Nokia, Ericsson, four others bid for $9 b BSNL tender

NEW DELHI, Sept 10: Six global telecom vendors including Ericsson, Nokia Siemens, Huawei, ZTE, Alcatel-Lucent and Nortel have bid for the mega tender of 93 million GSM lines floated by state-run Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd valued at approximately 8.5-9 billion dollar.

BSNL hopes to place orders for the first phase of the 93 million lines by early 2009, BSNL Chairman Kuldeep Goyal told reporters after bids were submitted.

Asked about the size of the deal and per line cost, Goyal said it will be lesser than the last year cost, which was 91 dollar in a 43 million GSM line tender which was later truncated to 23 million lines.

The contract is spread over three to four years, Goyal said.

BSNL Director, Finance, S D Saxena said it is very difficult to put the value of the deal at this stage as financial bids have not yet opened.

Industry sources said the size could be 8.5-9 billion dollar at 91 dollar a line cost.

Goyal said three to four vendors have applied in each of the four zones and two companies have applied for all four zones.

However, Motorola, one of the key players, was conspicuously absent in the bidding.

The company sources said, it decided to do so keeping in mind the financial viability.

Analysts said the equipment costs have come down and BSNL is justified in seeking a lower price per line.

In April, BSNL had used up almost all its 36 million GSM lines and most of its 5.5 million CDMA lines.

It said then it would add 33.5 million lines in the year to March 2009.

BSNL's lack of infrastructure has hampered its capacity to add wireless subscribers.

BSNL has, for the first time ever, divided the tender into four components - 2G lines, 3G lines, infrastructure and operating and business support systems (OSS and BSS) with a provision that companies can bid individually for any of the four components, or a single company can also bid for all the components.

The company has not yet opened the IT part of the contract. It will open on 30th September.

As many as 10 companies including GTL, ACME Telepower, Sujana Telecom, Nextra, TVS, Terracom, KEC International, Icom and Estel have bid for the infrastructure part of tender, Goyal said.

The PSU has set aside 25 per cent of the 93 million lines for 3G telephony.

BSNL plans to complete the roll out of its 3G mobile services on pan-India basis by the mid-next year.

Waive processing charge on top-ups: TRAI

NEW DELHI: Prepaid mobile subscribers now have more reasons to cheer as TRAI on Monday asked the telecom operators to waive the processing charge on the top-up cards, resulting full talk time on such recharges.

Users will now have to pay just an administrative fee not exceeding Rs 2 per recharge and other applicable taxes, TRAI said.

The regulator said it was brought to the TRAI notice that telcos are deducting a fixed amount even for recharges exclusively meant for providing talk time to subscribers who already have validity.

Such subscribers had already obtained validity by paying a fixed fee. The authority felt that levy of a second processing fee when the customer buys talk time through exclusive top-ups is unjustified, TRAI said.

This is one among many initiates taken by the regulator in its latest policy directives for making the telecom service more consumer friendly and transparent.

The regulator has also asked the operators to make the tariff related information available in regional languages also other than English as operators would now venture into semi-urban and rural areas where local language is the primary mode of communication.

The regulator also said that existing customers on the lifetime plans can migrate to new lifetime plans with lower entry fee without having to make additional payment or recharges.

"In cases where a subscriber of an existing lifetime validity plan or unlimited validity plan opts for migration to a new lifetime validity or unlimited validity plan, with lower entry fee, the service provider shall not levy any upfront payment or recurring charges or fee for allowing such migration," TRAI said.

In another consumer friendly move, TRAI said the benefits of straight tariff reduction general in nature should be made available to all the customers without any condition or any 'explicit action' by the subscribers. Sometimes the operators ask their subscribers to send an SMS or register themselves to avail the benefits of freshly announced tariff cuts.

The authority has disallowed such implementation of the declared and publicised lower tariffs and has mandated that "in cases of straight tariff reductions, where the declared intention of the operator is to extend the benefit to all subscribers without any attached liabilities, there shall not be any pre-condition of explicit positive action on the part of subscribers".

It has also directed that there shall be no barrier when a consumer migrates across plans or from postpaid to prepaid platform and vice versa -- forcing customer to take new number/new SIM Card.

Govt releases 3G services rules

NEW DELHI, Aug 1: The government today set the ball rolling for introduction of next generation (3G) mobile services, as also mobile number portability that would allow users to switch operators while retaining existing numbers.

The new guidelines for 3G spectrum, released today, provides for a reserve price for availing of radio frequency.

The price for a 2x5 Mhz block of spectrum for Mumbai and Delhi and category-A shall be Rs 160 crore and for Kolkata and category-B Rs 80 crore and for category-C Rs 30 crore.

Government has also decided to allow up to 10 players in the 3G space, including eligible foreign players.

The guidelines for Mobile Number Portability, also released by the government today, proposes dividing the country into two zones for implementing the scheme that is prevalent in most mature telecom markets.

The 3G spectrum will be auctioned in 450 mhz band, 800 mhz and 1,900 mhz and the guidelines exempt operators from paying any annual fee in the first year of operations.

Operators, however, shall be liable to pay an annual spectrum charge of one per cent of AGR after a period of one year.

All those who hold a Unified Access Service Licence or those who are otherwise eligible for obtaining UASL as per DoT guidelines of December 14, 2005 would be eligible to apply for 3G radio waves.

As per the guidelines, "the applicant company shall have a minimum paid-up capital of Rs 10 crore on the date of application. Foreign equity shall be subject to extent guidelines and regulation. However, equity of foreign partner in the company shall not be less than 26 per cent."

On MNP front, the guidelines said a one time non- refundable entry fee of Rs one crore is required to be paid for securing the service license.

"No single company/legal persons/MNP license applicant or MNP licensee company, either directly or indirectly, will have any equity in any of the telecom service provider and vice-versa," the guidelines said.

MTNL gets ILD licence; ISD rates could come down further

NEW DELHI, June 18: Public sector telecom service provider MTNL received the much-awaited international long distance licence on Wednesday, a development which could signal further lowering of ISD rates as the PSU is gearing up to carrying its own traffic in the near future.

A senior MTNL official told a news agency that the PSU has signed the licence agreement with the Department of Telecom on Wednesday and would now focus on carrying its own ILD traffic, although for some time the PSU would depend on the other ILD operators' network.

MTNL is currently routing most of its ISD traffic through VSNL.

At present mobile ISD rates to the US, Europe, Gulf and Africa ranges from Rs 6.40 to 9.20 per minute, while from landline the average rate is 5.99 per minute to the US.

With its own network coming up, the official said, the PSU's ISD carriage cost would fall significantly.

This would cut down the PSU's operational cost.

The ISD segment which already has players like state run BSNL besides private majors like Bharti, Reliance and VSNL, see some more competition with the entry of MTNL.

The operator of Mumbai and Delhi circle is also building an undersea cable project to carry its own ISD traffic.

Its erstwhile partner BSNL has pulled out of the project, which is to connect India to Singapore and Malaysia.

Vodafone and Airtel to Bring iPhone to India

NEW DELHI, June 10: No sooner has Steve Jobs unleashed the new 3G iPhone at the Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) in San Francisco than back home, not one but two carriers -- Bharti Airtel and Vodafone -- have announced, in conjunction with Apple, that they will be bringing the iconic device to India later this year. However, neither has specified the launch date or pricing of the 3G iPhone in India.

And now that the wraps are finally off of the much-hyped 3G iPhone, a quick recap of the stuff it's made of. iPhone II marries all of the features of iPhone with 3G networking to make the device "twice as fast" as the first-generation iPhone. iPhone II features built-in GPS for expanded location-based mobile services and iPhone 2.0 software with support for Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync, and is capable of running hundreds of third-party applications already built with the recently-released iPhone SDK.

Vodafone and Apple will bring iPhone 3G first to Australia, Italy, New Zealand, and Portugal on July 11. In these markets, Vodafone will make available iPhone 3G on both prepaid and contract price plans that will include value data bundles. Vodafone will then, later this year, make iPhone 3G available in other markets including the Czech Republic, Egypt, Greece, South Africa, Turkey, and most importantly -- India.
Details of specific launch dates and price plans will be made available in the respective countries by individual Vodafone operating companies. Vodafone customers in all of these markets including India can pre-register online and in retail stores in the next few days.

Meanwhile, Airtel customers who wish to receive more information on the Apple iPhone can send an SMS with keyword "iPhone" to 54321 (toll-free number). Airtel will announce details regarding pricing and availability at a later date, the company said.

Announcing the Apple-Vodafone partnership, Frank H R Vekamp, global CMO of Vodafone Group, said, "We are very excited to bring iPhone 3G to many of our customers across Europe and emerging markets this summer. Vodafone's extensive, high-speed, and reliable networks mean customers can enjoy a great Internet and communications experience on their iPhone 3G."

On a similar note, Manoj Kohli, president and chief executive officer of Bharti Airtel, said, "We are delighted with the opportunity to bring the innovative iPhone 3G to India. As India's leading telecom operator, Bharti Airtel has always stood for innovation and customer delight. With our reach across the country and iPhone's revolutionary features, we have a valuable proposition for our customers in India."

Meanwhile, Tim Cook, chief operating officer of Apple said in separate announcements that they are thrilled to work with both Vodafone and Bharti Airtel and can't wait to get this revolutionary product in the hands of even more people around the world.

BSNL to cut call charges

NEW DELHI, June 9: Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd will cut call charges on its cellular and fixed-line networks by as much as half from June 11, the state-run telecoms firm said in a statement.

By end-April, BSNL had 41.3 million wireless subscribers, making it the fourth-largest mobile service provider after Bharti Airtel, Reliance Communications and Vodafone controlled Vodafone Essar.

Vodafone cuts STD tariff to Rs 1.30 per minute

NEW DELHI, May 6: Going a step ahead of Bharti Airtel, Vodafone on Tuesday slashed the tariffs for STD to Rs 1.30 a minute across the country while roaming charges have been dropped to Re 1 for all incoming and local outgoing calls.

Last week Bharti had dropped the STD tariffs to Rs 1.50 a minute.

New tariffs would come into effect from today, a company statement said.

While on roaming, a subscriber can make an outgoing call (STD) at the rate of Rs 1.50 per minute.

"Vodafone has always endeavoured to deliver best value to its customers. The new reduction in tariffs reinforces our commitment to our customers," Vodafone-Essar Director - Marketing and New Business - Harit Nagpal said.

Vodafone has matched the roaming tariffs of Bharti Airtel while announcing a steeper cut in domestic outgoing (STD) calls to Rs 1.30 compared to Bharti's Rs 1.50 a minute.

IFFCO, Airtel launch second Green Revolution; To empower 50 million Indian farmers

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, May 2: World’s largest farmers’ cooperative, IFFCO, and leading telecom service provider, Airtel, have joined hands to empower 50 crore Indian farmers and take forward Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s dream of inclusive growth.

Dubbed as the second Green Revolution, the new joint venture company IFFCO Kisan Sanchar Limited (IKSL) would provide a major boost to Indian agriculture and the rural economy at large by harnessing the power of telecom to add value to the farm sector and empower the rural farmer by giving him access to vital information, which will enhance his livelihood and quality of life.

Dr U S AwasthiAnnouncing the launch of the new company, IFFCO’s Managing Director, Dr U.S. Awasthi, said, “IFFCO’s heart and soul lives in rural India. It is an organization of the farmers, for the farmers and by the farmers and works on the model of cooperatives. We have been constantly endeavoring to enrich the lives of the farmers through creating and strengthening cooperative institutions, and providing them the best quality inputs in the form of fertilizers and knowledge.”

He said “IFFCO has created, nurtured and promoted institutions such as Indian Farm Forestry Development Cooperative, IFFCO Foundation, Cooperative Rural development Trust (CORDET), and Kisan Sewa Trust to impart training, knowledge and education to the farmer at his doorstep. Any amount of effort is inadequate to reach the nook and corner of this country.”

Dr Awasthi said “the mobile technology, however, seems to us a God-sent opportunity for carrying out this mission. We feel that there is a great opportunity in telecom sector going to rural India to create new business opportunities for the cooperatives where farmers are the key stakeholders. Synergizing on IFFCO’s presense in about 98 percent of villages throughout the country, Airtel would use IKSL as a vehicle to make its mobile telecom services reach the rural masses.”

Dr. Awasthi further added, “IFFCO Kisan Sanchar Ltd. is, therefore, a unique venture to strengthen the Cooperative movement in rural India, to empower the farmers through information, to boost the rural economy, and also to create rural employment. Communication being the key for empowering farmers, IFFCO decided to join hands with the most admired brand, Airtel.”

Explaining the rationale behind the move, Bharti Group Chairman and Managing Director, Sunil Mittal, said “with most of urban areas already covered by mobile operators, 40 per cent of the new subscribers are coming from rural areas. By 2010, the rural population is likely to touch 800 million and two-third of those will be prospective mobile users making it a Rs 40,000-crore market. We want to be the top rural telecom brand in the country.”

Sunil Mittal said “we have partnered with IFFCO as it knows the needs of rural farmers as it provides them seeds, fertilizer, micro financing and insurance.”

He said the new joint venture is corporate India’s serious entry into rural India.

Sunil Mittal said “Airtel has created a value added platform for carrying forward the Prime Minister’s mission of inclusive growth and thus there will be five free daily voice updates on mandi prices, farming techniques, weather forecasts and fertiliser availability to the farmers in local languages.” He said the Indian farmer can look forward to the benefits of mobile telephony and internet.

In addition, he said the farmer will be able to call a dedicated helpline, manned by experts from various fields, to get answers to their specific queries.

Dr Awasthi said the new joint venture will empower the farmers with the voice to communicate. “It will usher in connectivity between haves and have nots, urban and rural areas and India and Bharat.”

IKSL Managing Director Rakesh Kapur said “the joint venture will offer products and services, specifically designed for farmers, through IFFCO societies in villages across the country. On offer will be affordable mobile handsets bundled with Airtel mobile connection.”

Airtel President (Mobile Services) Sanjay Kapoor said “Bharti Airtel will offer competitive calling rates at 50 paise per minute for calls between IFFCO members. This is expected to promote community building within the society and rural community at large.”

He said “Bharti Airtel will also set up towers at sites provided by IFFCO societies to provide quality services to farmers.”

Rakesh Kapur said the IKSL started the pilot project a few months ago in Eastern Uttar Pradesh and has already enrolled over 48,000 farmers under this scheme.

In the new company IKSL, IFFCO will have the majority 50 per cent stake while Airtel and Star Global will have 25 per cent equity each.

At the launch function, Dr Awasthi and Mr Mittal gave the the first IFFCO-Airtel Green card to a farmer.

Banga of IKSL said with the launch of the services, the mobile phone will no more be a mobile phone. The Green (mobile) chip will be a power house of information, store house of knowledge and empowerment.

He said the company will roll out its services in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Himachal Pradesh in the first phase. The second phase will see the partnership being extended to Gujarat, Maharastra, Goa, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala. The rollout of the second phase is expected to begin by May 2008.

Who in India empowered to resolve Blackberry: Canada

David MaloneNEW DELHI, April 27: Amid a raging controversy about threat to national security from Blackberry services, Canada has questioned the DoT's approach to resolving the issue and also expressed doubt whether those involved on the Indian side are actually empowered to settle the matter.

In a letter to Communication and IT Minister A Raja, Canadian High Commissioner David M Malone said: "We and RIM (Canada-based Blackberry vendor Research-in-Motion) need to understand who in the government of India is empowered to resolve this issue. This is necessary in order to ensure the right representative from RIM at the table."

"The discussion managed by DoT to date have inspired little confidence that those involved on the Indian side are actually empowered to settle the matter as Indian government's demands of RIM keep expanding while media leaks proliferate, some of them very damaging from a security perspective."

"Potential terrorists are now aware, because of these leaks, of technical issues unknown to most of us previously," he said in a recent letter.

Raja had last week said that the issue would be resolved within a week but going by the communication of Canadian High Commissioner, it looks that both parties -- DoT and RIM - are yet to even agree upon who from India would be negotiating.

Blackberry services came under a cloud ever since security agencies expressed fears that terror groups could use the service, including e-mail feature, to communicate without being monitored by Indian agencies as the data is routed through servers abroad.

According to sources, the Indian security agencies have been insisting for placing the Blackberry server in India so that the contents sent to and from Blackberry handset could be monitored, if required.

From the trade perspective, the focus on RIM by DoT would appear to be discriminatory given the myriad of other technologies available and offering similar security features, Malone said.

In any case, the apparent willingness of Indian officials to negotiate via the media has made effective negotiations difficult while exposing India's security concerns to extensive public scrutiny and debate, he added.

"While we wholeheartedly acknowledge the importance of security measures to combat terrorism, as well as the need for effective telecommunication regulations, there needs to be a balance between such measures and maintaining a supportive business environment for both foreign and domestic companies," the Canadian High Commissioner said.

A series of meetings have been held between DoT, RIM and officials of security agencies, but no satisfactory solution has been found.

DoT has also asked mobile service providers like Bharti Airtel, Vodafone-Essar, Reliance Communications and BPL not to connect or provide/run the Blackberry services like e-mail and mobile messenger unless the monitoring system is put in place to the satisfaction of the security agencies and the master key and algorithm are deposited with the licensor (DoT).

"These are sensitive negotiations, and a positive solution is required that recognises India's legitimate security concerns and the realities of the technology involved. Finding a mutually acceptable way forward can only be found in a private, non-confrontational environment, in which RIM and the relevant government of India decision makers are engaged," Malone said.

Airtel reduces STD, roaming rates

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, April 28: Reiterating its commitment to make mobile telephony more affordable, Airtel today announced unprecedented tariff reductions on STD and Roaming services for its over 62 million customers.

Airtel has reduced its STD rates dramatically to Re 1.50/ minute from the earlier Re 2.65/ minute, benefiting all Airtel customers who make long distance calls. The new tariffs will be effective from April 30.

Airtel has also redefined the roaming regime in the country. Airtel customers will now be able to receive a call while roaming at Re 1/minute, as compared to Re 1.75/minute at present.

Further, while roaming, Airtel customers can make an outgoing local call at Re1/minute and an STD call at Re 1.50/minute. This will help create an India without boundaries, making communication with loved ones easier and more affordable.

Bharti Airtel president & CEO Manoj Kohli said, “Airtel has today taken another step to take forward India’s telecom story powered by enhanced affordability. 800 million Indians are now closer than ever before. This initiative will particularly benefit rural customers and underlines our commitment to the nation’s growth.”

Sanjay Kapoor, President, Mobile Services, Bharti Airtel, added, “This initiative spells the end of distance for our existing and prospective customers. With 70% STD customers in India using less than 5 minutes/month on STD calls and 80% mobile customers not using their phones while roaming, we have a compelling customer proposition. I am delighted that we are leading this endeavour, which strengthens our strategic plank of affordability. I am confident that this will drive growth and usage in the Indian telecom industry.”

Airtel has always been a front-runner in leading affordability in the industry, one of the many reasons why over 62 million customers prefer its services. This revised tariff further reinforces Airtel’s commitment to make mobile telephony more affordable. The 700-million strong rural market in India is the biggest single market in the world and Airtel is rapidly expanding its footprint in the rural areas of the country.

It has already connected over 3.2-lakh villages and plans to reach 5 lakh by 2010. This rapid roll out is witnessing a large number of customers joining Airtel’s network from the rural areas of the country. Therefore, these tariff initiatives will help catalyze efforts to make telephony more affordable for all customers across the country and further reinforce Airtel as the industry leader in both affordability and availability.

Industry reports indicate that education, tourism and travel will be key growth driver of the future. Data shows that Airtel remains committed to ensuring that communication continues to help facilitate cultural, social and commercial exchanges to the benefit of its customers.

The reduced call tariffs will be a welcome relief to the increasing number of people who are taking up educational, professional or commerce opportunities in different parts of the country. Bridging distances, the revised call tariffs will empower Airtel customers to talk more at an affordable cost.

Earlier, Airtel initiatives like the Rs 200 Recharge, Easy Charge, Lifetime, Easy Lifetime & Super Lifetime Prepaid have revolutionized the Indian market in terms of creating customer value and Airtel will continue to come up with offerings that facilitate an affordable and available mobile experience.

BSNL Launches Ring Back Tone Service for Landline Subscribers

NEW DELHI, Nov 22: Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL), India’s largest Telecom Company, has launched yet another innovative value-added service, for the first time in the country; the Personalized Ring Back Tone Service for the landline subscribers.

The Ring Back Tones Service allows the subscribers to replace the normal ring back tone “trring trring” with any song, sound or tune that is chosen by them from amongst a plethora of choice from various movie based, devotional, instrumental – premium & non premium content offered to them by BSNL. The subscriber can personalize the Ring back tones for individual callers.

This is a beginning of a great revolution in the history of Value added services for landline subscribers, which has been so far a vertical primarily focused on the mobile telephony only. This is surely a service that is going to help BSNL reduce the churn impacting its landline telephony subscriber base.

The service initially planned for provision to the Siemens EWSD subscribers of Chennai telephones would be further extended to subscribers under other technology switches as well in a phased manner.

The service launched by BSNL with the help of its preferred VAS technology provider & partner OnMobile Global Ltd. will be available on the IVR platform for subscribers to call in, subscribe to the service & make song selections as well for their landline numbers. The call in number for IVR is 56700 which subscribers can call from their landline phones & enjoy the service.

The RBT service for mobile subscribers has been receiving a tremendous response across various South Zone Circles of BSNL wherein it has been launched & running successfully thus becoming a hot favorite with subscribers.

BSNL in its endeavor to improve its offerings on Value added services for landline subscribers is now planning to extend this service to all subscribers across the country.

BSNL 56700 IVR is an interesting interactive speech recognition based service wherein subscribers can call in and interact with the service by speaking in his or her natural language; Tamil, English or Hindi & hear responses on their BSNL landline phone, and continue interacting with the system in a user-friendly, interactive manner & enjoy the services.

BSNL to provide 2 m hi-speed broadband connections

CHENNAI, Nov 5: As part of its "ambitious plans", public sector service provider BSNL will provide 2 million hi-speed broadband connections to various rural parts of the country at a cost of around Rs 250 crore.

Kuldeep Goyal, Chairman and Managing Director, after inaugurating personalised ring back tones or caller tunes services at Chennai on Monday, told newsmen that this effort will help about 23,000 exchanges in various villages getting broadband connections.

"The connections will be given by February as works are on in this regard," Goyal said.

Further, the BSNL would also provide 2 million Wi-Max internet connections in rural areas, "with special focus on 1000 blocks in the country where no other service provider is present," he said.

The wireless local loop connections will also be nearly doubled, with 3 million connections being added to the existing 3.5 million in the country.

"Presently, these will be given on fixed lines and we will start operations on complete mobility segment after the WLL policy is announced next month," Goyal said.

The 'happening' mobile phone connection segment was also getting a fillip, with orders for 10 million lines placed with Ericsson, while another 9 million with Nokia was under consideration.

The company was also holding the market share when it came to landline telephones, with a market share of 40 percent, meaning 1.1 million lines out of the existing 2.5 million were that of BSNL, he added.

Microsoft inks $500 m deal with Reliance

MUMBAI, Nov 5: Microsoft announced a tie-up with Reliance Anil D. Ambani Group (RADAG) worth $500 million to launch Internet protocol television (IPTV) and allied services in India here Monday.

The IPTV services will first be launched in New Delhi and Mumbai, followed by the other metros, said RADAG chairman Anil Ambani.

"Reliance will enjoy exclusive deployment rights for the Microsoft platform in India," he added.

The service will be interactive, personal and hi-tech, said Anil Ambani.

Ambani also said that Reliance would launch direct-to-home (DTH) services in the country in the next few months. There are currently 100 million TV homes in India, he pointed out.

Microsoft will power the service through a sophisticated fibre optic network in the country.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and Ambani were present at the announcement ceremony.

Also present were Ravi Venkatesan, chairman, Microsoft India, and Prakash Bajpai, president, Reliance Communications.

The companies would also co-operate on rural broadband, mobile telephony, gaming and entertainment in the Indian market.

Airtel announces launch of 8 Mbps broadband in India

NEW DELHI, Oct 11: India's leading integrated telecom service provider, Airtel, on Wednesday announced the launch of eight Mbps broadband service, becoming the first service provider in the country to offer such high speed broadband service.

Announcing the launch of the new product, Bharti Airtel President (Broadband and Telephone Services) Atul Bindal said with this the Airtel broadband customers could now browse multiple windows and at the same time, download heavy files, view streaming video, enjoy online gaming, chat, email and other applications.

Currently the speeds on offer, range from 256 KBps to 4Mbps. With the new speed offering, Airtel has pioneered a revolution in internet experience, he said.

"Airtel customers will no longer have to wait for a video to get buffered while watching streaming videos. They would be able to download a 5 Mb music file in five seconds flat as compared to 160 seconds on a 256 kbps connection," according to PVV Srinivas Roa, Chief Marketing Officer.

Airtel's eight Mbps broadband service will initially be available in Bangalore, Chennai, Pune, Kolkata, Delhi and the NCR, with a subsequent roll out in Mumbai and Hyderabad in a few weeks.

The offering would be commercially available soon, he said, adding the price points of this offering is still being worked out. However, roughly the price point could be around Rs 2,000 for a download of 7-8 Gbs.

Tariff plans and product offerings are also being worked out to enable customers, who do not want a 24-hour eight mpbs speed but want them for certain applications or a short duration of time, to avail the new offering.

Nokia unveils new biz phone

HELSINKI, Sept 18: The world's top cellphone maker, Nokia , unveiled on Tuesday a new phone model, Nokia E51, for corporate users and said it still expects to faster growth in the mobile e-mail market.

Nokia said the classic "candy bar" shaped phone model will be globally available later this year, and retail for 350 euros ($485), excluding subsidies and taxes.

Nokia's enterprise unit turned to profit in the last quarter after years of losses, helped by the success of its E65 phone model.

The unit has been hoping to benefit from runaway success of RIM's Blackberry models, but it said still only two per cent of corporate e-mail accounts are mobile, similar to the situation a couple of years ago.

"We believe it will change quickly," Antti Vasara, head of device business at Nokia's enterprise unit told a news conference. Vasara said by 2009 there should be 880 million mobile workers using either cellphones or laptops.

"Less and less people are bound to their desks while doing their work," he said.

Apple sets UK iPhone debut for Nov 9

LONDON, Sept 18: Apple Inc. will partner with U.K. mobile carrier O2 (UK) Ltd. when it rolls out the iPhone in Great Britain on Nov. 9, the company said today. Contrary to speculation, however, the smart phone will not use the faster 3G data network common in Europe.

CEO Steve Jobs announced the partnership with O2 UK at one of Apple's London retail stores, and set the price of the iPhone at $537, which includes value-added taxes. O2 will offer three different subscriber plans, called "tariffs" in the U.K., that range from $70 to $110 monthly. Those plans include 200 to 1,200 calling minutes, and 200 to 500 text messages in their allotments.

The price of the iPhone will be the stickiest problem Apple faces in the U.K., said Gartner Inc. analyst Carolina Milanesi, speaking from London after Jobs'presentation. "We're terribly spoiled in the U.K.," she said, talking about handset subsidies.

"Here, a 400 to 500 euro phone becomes a 100 to 150 euro device [with subsidies]. I really think that consumers will need to be educated about the iPhone" before they'll buy.

As in the U.S., the iPhone accesses the Internet using its built-in Safari browser, and pulls e-mail from multiple accounts. All three O2 tariffs offer unlimited data access.

Questions about data, particularly the network speed, came up almost immediately during the Q&A with Jobs and O2 UK CEO Matthew Key.

Although some pundits and analysts had gone out on a limb and speculated that the iPhone might be modified to work with 3G, the faster data standard that's widespread in Europe, the U.K. iPhone will use an EDGE (Enhanced Data Rates for GSM Evolution) network when outside the range of a Wi-Fi hot spot, just as it does in the U.S. O2's Key acknowledged that his network will have EDGE coverage available in only 30% of its calling area by the time the iPhone goes on sale.

Jobs, meanwhile, said that Apple didn't make the iPhone 3G-capable because of power concerns. "The 3G chip sets are real power hogs," Jobs said, according to an account posted in real time by Engadget.

"Our phone has a talk time of eight hours and that's really important when you want to use your phone for Internet and music. 3G needs to get back up to five-plus hours, something we think we'll see later next year."

To plug the data gap, O2 said it had partnered with Wi-Fi provider The Cloud, and would provide unlimited free access to 7,500 public access points at the iPhone's November debut. An unlimited account with The Cloud is currently priced at $13.95 monthly.

The Wi-Fi addition is crucial, said Milanesi, to the iPhone's success in the country. "The deal with The Cloud and the hot spots across the U.K. will minimize concerns," she said.

Even the iPhone's reliance on EDGE networks isn't a deal killer for most consumers; a lot of the touting of 3G and the dismissal of EDGE has been overblown.

"There is some awareness of 3G, for example, not because it's faster than EDGE, but because the latest phones are on 3G," Milanesi said. "So when someone wants the latest and greatest device, then they might ask for 3G."

Jobs also parried questions about iPhone unlocking, which has been accomplished with both free and commercial software in the U.S., freeing the device from the single approved carrier, AT&T. "It's a constant cat-and-mouse game," Jobs said of unlocking. "We have to stay one step ahead of them."

Apple has not officially commented on unlocking success, but previous updates to the iPhone have disabled earlier hacks.

BSNL hosts international GSMA meet

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, Sept 10: The International Roamfest Conference under the auspices of the GSMA was inaugurated by Dr. Shakeel Ahmad, Minister of Communication and Information Technology, here on Monday.

Founded in 1987, GSMA (Association of Global System for Mobile Communications) is a global body representing over 700 GSM mobile phone operators across 218 countries of the world. The GSMA conducts meeting of its BARG (Billing and Accounting Roaming Group) regularly.

The meeting is being held for the first time in India as recognition of the on-going exponential growth of GSM in India. This has been made possible by a special initiative taken by BSNL.

BARG meeting is scheduled to be held from Sept 10 to 12. Around 265 delegates worldwide are expected to attend the meeting. Issues discussed during BARG meetings will pertain to International Roaming, billing and accounting fraud.

Following the meeting, GSMA is going to conduct Roamfest on September 13 at New Delhi. This is a platform provided by GSMA facilitating operators to discuss roaming agreements among themselves.

BSNL is sponsoring both the said events in the larger interest of consumers. BSNL has a massive expansion plan and the international roaming arrangements will surely benefit all the consumers. The event would enhance the footing of BSNL in the GSM world and also enhance the International Roaming Service of BSNL.

Inaugurating the event, Dr. Shakeel Ahmad said, “The Indian government is giving due priority to the telecommunication sector and is fully committed to the continued liberalization in the sector. India is poised to provide for reforms to facilitate convergence of both market and technologies in developing a world class telecom infrastructure which can sustain the need of India’s emergence as an IT Power.

“I am sure this forum would consider and work towards evolving a sustainable tariff structure for international roamers in comparison to home customers and also ensure provision of seamless quality services while making available the traceable identity about them.”

Added, Mr. Kuldeep Goyal, CMD, BSNL, “Today is indeed a great day in the history of Indian Telecom. As the GSMA celebrates two decades of formation, the BARG Meeting and Roamfest are being organized for the first time in India. This is a recognition by the GSMA of the on-going exponential growth of GSM in India. It is a great honor for BSNL to host and sponsor this event. I am sure that the discussions during BARG will be highly successful and help us to serve mankind in a much better way.”

BSNL is the incumbent operator in India and today it is “India’s Number One Telecom Company’. With a turnover of over US $ 10 Billion it provides the complete range pf Telecom Services across the country. It has a subscriber base of more than 65 million lines of which around 33 million are fixed lines, 3.6 million CDMA (WLL) and 29 million GSM connections.

BSNL’s long distance transmission network is more than 0.5 million-route kms of OFC and Microwave systems. In addition BSNL has 229 satellite stations. BSNL also provides Internet, broadband, VPN services and is shortly going to launch ILD services as well.

BSNL is the 15th largest GSM operator worldwide. BSNL has the deepest penetration across the length and breadth of India, amongst all GSM service providers.

With the exception of New Delhi and Mumbai, where it is through another government telecom company MTNL. Coverage of BSNL’s GSM network is extensive, ubiquitous and includes more than 12000 cities and towns, all major national /State Highways, Railways Routes, tourist, religious and the remotest places.

Apple sells millionth iPhone, ahead of schedule

NEW YORK, Sept 10: Apple Inc sold its millionth iPhone on Monday, just 74 days after the combination cell phone-iPod went on sale and less than a week after its price was cut by a third.

Apple previously said it expected to hit the million-sold mark by the end of September.

On Wednesday, Apple CEO Steve Jobs cut the price of the 8-gigabyte iPhone from USD 599 to USD 399 and discontinued the USD 499 4-gigabyte version.

The next day he apologised to those who had paid full price and offered USD 100 credits to early buyers.

In a letter on the company's Web site, Jobs acknowledged that Apple disappointed some of its customers and said he had received hundreds of e-mails complaining about the price cut.

Jobs added that "the technology road is bumpy," and there will always be people who pay top dollar for the latest electronics but get angry later when the price drops.

"This is life in the technology lane," Jobs said in the letter Thursday.

Reliance launches BlackBerry service

MUMBAI, Sept 10: Reliance Communications (RCOM) on Monday launched Research in Motion's push platform based BlackBerry wireless solutions in what marks a first for an Indian CDMA network in India.

The Canadian company has already been present in Indian market through GSM operators Vodafone Essar and Bharti Airtel. The company is aggressively trying to tie up with more operators.

According to sources, RIM is already in advanced talks with BPL, Tata Indicom and Spice Telecom also to start BlackBerry services in India and agreements are expected to be sewn up in the next few months.

After Airtel, Reliance's huge pan-India network could mark a big foray into the hitherto untapped upper end CDMA market for BlackBerry.

Available across 10,000 towns and three lakh villages, Reliance can claim it to be the most widely connected BlackBerry service in the country. It is simultaneously rolling out BlackBerry services in its GSM circles too.

Reliance Communication is the first to launch BlackBerry 8830 World Edition smartphone in India which allows interoperability between CDMA and GSM network, which delivers high Internet speed on one hand and offers international roaming across the globe on the other.

Along with premium phone features, Web browsing and other mobile productivity applications, the sleek and stylish BlackBerry 8830 features a full QWERTY keyboard, large bright display, intuitive trackball navigation system, a microSD expandable memory slot and an advanced media player for listening to music, viewing pictures and watching videos.

Reliance will also offer a range of solutions such as Internet-based online trading, video streaming and ‘Bloomberg Anywhere’ services for enterprises and professionals.

“We are confident that our network will offer a superior value proposition to professionals on the move. Reliance is committed to provide world class solutions on BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES). For the first time in India, we are launching BlackBerry service with applications such as Internet-based online trading and Blackberry on prepaid. Many more such solutions will follow suit,” said RCOM president Prakash Bajpai.

“BlackBerry smartphones are designed to provide people with the best integrated mobile experience for email, phone, Web browsing and other corporate and personal applications. RIM is very pleased to be working with RCOM to further drive the adoption of BlackBerry smartphones and mobile applications in India,” said RIM vice-president Asia-Pacific Norm Lo.

Reliance has launched other BlackBerry models also. This includes BlackBerry Pearl (Rs 24,990), BlackBerry 8703e (Rs 22,990), BlackBerry Curve (Rs 24,990) in addition to the BlackBerry 8830 World Edition (Rs 33,990).

The BlackBerry 8830 and 8703e handsets will be available in 16 cities to start with and will be expanded to other cities in the next phase. RCOM is also launching BlackBerry Pearl on its GSM network in a phase-wise manner starting with Indore.

Tata offers calls to US @ Rs 2

NEW DELHI, Sept 10: Tata Teleservices on Monday announced international calls at as low as Rs 2 a minute under a new ILD plan ‘Talk World’, cheaper than any fixed or wireline service in India.

The plan with a monthly rental of Rs 299 offers ILD call rates as low as Rs 2 minute for US and Canada, Rs 4 a minute to Australia, New Zealand and South East Asia, while the rate is Rs 7 a minute for Africa and Middle-East and Gulf.

However, these rates are applicable between 9 pm to 9am on weekdays and 24 hours on Saturdays and Sundays. At any other time on weekdays, the rates range from Rs 6.4 a minute to Rs 9.2 a minute for the above-mentioned destinations.

Tata Teleservices under this plan also offers the lowest local as well as national calling benefits across all India-One plans of competitors, thus making it the most powerful STD and roaming plan available in the market, ideally suited for customers seeking high NLD and roaming usage.

“We are aiming at capitalizing, the largely untapped category of ILD calling segment in the mobile market, which offers convenience of anytime connectivity, control on expenses and versatility with ease of availability,” said Debashis Sur, Tata Tele Delhi and NCR circle operating officer.

“With entry rental as low as Rs 299, it offers the customers freedom to call at their convenience. We want to further facilitate ‘affordable’ calling for our consumers by offering reduced rates at off-peak hours (9 PM to 9 AM), which translates into prime calling time in the major ILD destinations. It is a product designed keeping in mind the requirements of our customers who are frequent ILD users or make expensive long distance calls,” he said.

“While calling cards are preferred over wireline or mobile due to the aggressive price drops, of late, VOIP being a relatively new technology, is used more frequently by the youth and is slowly eroding the myth that ILD calls from landline are cheaper than from mobiles. The scheme also offers travelers, the benefit of affordable long distance calling facility even while on roaming,” he added.

E-mail outage strikes BlackBerrys

SAN FRANCISCO, Sept 8: A software glitch shut down e-mail service for some BlackBerry users Friday, and delays were still being felt hours after the problem was fixed.

Research in Motion Ltd., the Waterloo, Ontario-based company that makes the ubiquitous mobile device, said no e-mails were lost in the shutdown that affected an unspecified number of customers in North America who subscribe to the BlackBerry Internet Service. Phone service and text messaging were unaffected.

However, even after e-mail service was restored, slowdowns persisted into Friday night as message backlogs were being cleared out. The company did not provide an estimate of when service would return to normal and did not specify the software problem.

"(Research in Motion) is continuing to monitor the situation and apologizes to customers for any inconvenience," the company said in a statement.

BlackBerry Enterprise Server, a higher tier of software geared toward large businesses, was not affected.

Service outages have been rare in the BlackBerry's eight-year history, but the outages that have surfaced have prompted angry backlashes against the company because of its lengthy silences about what caused them and the cryptic and jargon-laden explanations that eventually emerge.

Research in Motion waited two days after a major outage in April before telling customers that a minor software upgrade had crashed the system. The outage prompted grumbles from always-on users all the way up to the highest levels of business and government, including the White House and the Canadian Parliament.

More than 8 million people have BlackBerry subscriptions worldwide. The company has relationships with 270 carriers in 110 countries.

BSNL to connect 23,000 villages

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, Sept 7: Public-sector telecom giant Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd. (BSNL) has announced an investment of Rs 22,881 crore for its major expansion plans, including connecting 23,000 villages.

The company, which recently awarded multibillion dollar contracts to leading vendors such as Nokia and Ericsson for 10 million and 13 million GSM lines respectively, is planning to add 10 million additional mobile subscribers and a market share of 33 percent by the end of current fiscal year 2007-08.

This is based on the firm's rural expansion, where it is planning to connect 23,000 villages either through mobile or landline connectivity.

BSNL's Chairman and Managing Director Kuldeep Goyal said "We have planned major expansion and growth targets for the current financial year. In the last year we have not been able to grow and were going slow which is why we had come down to number three position in terms of subscribers... By 2008 we should be back at number two."

The company is also planning to ramp up its presence in the CDMA market by adding 3.6 million users to reach to the level of 6 million.

BSNL is also waiting to place orders for the procurement of 3G (third generation) lines, which it indicated could be with the existing vendors and the contract would be worth Rs 1720 crore.

Mr Goyal said "the 3G orders would be placed once the government comes out with the spectrum policy. If the first phase of roll out goes well then it would be with the existing vendors and the size of the deal would be around Rs.17,200 crores.

Regarding plans of BSNL in current financial year, Mr Goyal mentioned that the additions of WLL lines will more than offset the surrender cases of Landline.

"Umbrella coverage will be provided to all villages of the country by WLL signals. BSNL will be adding around 10 million mobile connections. Once infrastructure is in place, BSNL plans to add around 2 million mobile connections per month from January next year. BSNL plans to cover villages above 2000 populations."

He said BSNL has a massive plan for Broadband. Mr Goyal mentioned that the roll out of the expansion of BSNL Broadband is starting now. BSNL Plans to add around 2 million broadband connections in the current year.

Apart from 1000 cities which are already covered, additional 500 cities will be covered in this expansion plan. Adequate capacities in each city have been planned.

"Today BSNL is number One Internet Service Provider. Keeping the pace, BSNL plans to add 0.8 million internet connections. 25000 villages are expected to get broadband for which 1.5 million DSL equipment is being deployed in approx 23000 rural exchanges."

Recently, BSNL launched the IPTV (internet protocol television) service in Pune, Bangalore and Kolkata. It is now planning to launch it soon in other major cities as well.

Denying any move to hike its call tariffs in the near future, the Chairman said: "Our tariff are customer friendly and we don't believe in hiking it any time now. Our tariffs are affordable and transparent."

However, according to S.D. Saxena, director (finance), BSNL: "We are very much concerned along with other players in the industry that with lowering of tariffs the operators are also facing lowering of revenues."

Thus, in order to tackle the reducing revenues the company is planning to introduce a host of value added services to attract more subscribers.

"We would be introducing new services every month to tackle the lowering of revenues. One such would be the facility of money transfer for NRIs for which we are in talks with many companies," said Mr Saxena.

Apple cuts Iphone price by $ 200

SAN JOSE, California, Sept 7: Apple Inc. CEO Steve Jobs apologized and offered $100 credits Thursday to customers who shelled out $599 for the most advanced model of the iPhone, only to have the company unexpectedly slash the price $200 in a push to boost holiday sales.

In a letter on the company's Web site, Jobs acknowledged that Apple disappointed some of its customers and said he has received hundreds of e-mails complaining about the price cut.

But Jobs added that "the technology road is bumpy," and there will always be people who pay top dollar for the latest electronics but get angry later when the price drops.

Jobs said Apple will hand out $100 credits for Apple's retail and online stores to iPhone customers who aren't eligible for a rebate.

Customers who bought an iPhone within 14 days of the price cut can get a refund of the price difference if they have the original receipt.

Apple iPhone arrives

SAN FRANCISCO, June 30: Brandon Saunders, 16, had been saving his allowance and birthday money for months to get one of Apple Inc.'s coveted iPhones.

He waited in line with his 70-year-old grandmother for about eight hours Friday in front of a San Antonio AT&T store and left sunburned but grinning, shopping bag in hand.

"It's worth it," he said. "It's like Christmas in June."

The teen was among the first to get his hands on the coveted gadget from Apple, joining throngs destined to become braggarts of and guinea pigs for the latest must-have, cutting-edge piece of techno-wizardry.

Apple is banking that its new, do-everything phone with a touch-sensitive screen will become its third core business next to its moneymaking iPod music players and Macintosh computers.

The doors of East Coast Apple and AT&T stores opened promptly at 6 p.m. EDT with cheers from employees and eager customers. Stores farther west followed suit as the clock struck 6 in each time zone. In San Francisco, customers sang "Auld Lang Syne" following a countdown, as if heralding a new era in telecommunications.

Patrons at the Apple store in Palo Alto were treated to a very brief appearance by Apple CEO Steve Jobs. He momentarily posed for pictures before leaving.

"I'm glad it's over," said Carlos Sanchez, 19, at Apple's Fifth Avenue store in New York City, clutching shopping bags containing two iPhones — the maximum allowed per person. "I don't have to sleep outside anymore."

Techies, exhibitionists and luminaries — even the co-founder of Apple and the mayor of Philadelphia — were among the inaugural group of iPhone customers.

The handset's price tag is $499 for a 4-gigabyte model and $599 for an 8-gigabyte version, on top of a minimum $59.99-a-month two-year service plan with AT&T Inc., the phone's exclusive carrier.

Because Apple designed a new way for customers to activate the cell phone service from AT&T, by logging onto Apple's iTunes software from their computers, many buyers headed straight home to christen the device.

In Newton, Mass., Khu Duong, 30, said he was excited but "afraid to open it. You want to sit down and relax."

Fellow customer Nick Seaver, 21, couldn't wait. He flipped open his Mac laptop right in the mall and paid $5 to use the wireless network and activate it. But because his current service contract with Verizon was set to expire the next day, Seaver got a computer message from iTunes he would have to wait 24 hours before his iPhone worked.

In Seattle, Paul Clark, a videographer, had his iPhone up and running in short order right outside the Apple store. He installed the required new version of iTunes, hooked up the cell phone to his Macbook, synchronized his phone contacts and calendar, and was soon off taking calls from clients, putting them on hold, checking his calendar, phoning his wife and responding to e-mails.

Scared about dropping the phone, Clark then darted back into the store to purchase a protective skin for the gadget.

Will all the waiting have been worth it? For many, it didn't seem to matter.

"I just love getting new stuff," said retiree Len Edgerly, who arrived at 3 a.m. Friday to be first in line outside an Apple store in Cambridge, Mass. "It's the best new thing that's come along in a long time. It's beautiful."

Even Steve Wozniak, the ex-partner of Jobs, showed up at a Silicon Valley mall at 4 a.m. aboard his Segway scooter. He helped keep order in the line outside the Apple store.

The other customers awarded the honorary first spot in line to Wozniak, who planned to buy two iPhones on Friday even though he remains an Apple employee and will get a free one from the company next month. He said the device would redefine cell phone design and use.

"Look how great the iPod turned out," he told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. "So who wants to miss that revolution? That's why there's all this big hype for the iPhone."

The gadget, which Jobs has touted as "revolutionary," has been the focus of endless anticipatory chatter and has been parodied on late-night TV. Since its unveiling in January, expectations that it will become yet another blockbuster product for Apple has pushed the company's stock up more than 40 percent.

Apple itself has set a target of selling 10 million units worldwide by 2008, gaining roughly a 1 percent share of the cell phone market. It's expected to go on sale in Europe later this year and in Asia in 2008.

In addition to the cost of the phone, for those currently using another cellular provider, there's also the cost of switching carriers.

Some bullish Wall Street analysts have predicted sales could hit as high as 45 million units in two years.

"That's nuts," said Rob Enderle, an industry analyst with The Enderle Group. "Over-hyping this thing just puts it at risk of being seen as a failure.

"Apple will break (sales) records for a phone of this class," he said, "but selling tens of millions of units so quickly is going to be tough. First-generation products always have problems that you don't know about until the product ships."

More likely, Enderle and other analysts said, Apple will grow iPhone sales by refining its models and improving the software features — much as it did with the iPod, which has fueled record profits for the company.

But unlike its foray into digital music players, Apple faces competition in cell phones from deep-pocketed, well-established giants, such as Nokia Corp. and Motorola Inc.

Apple has not disclosed how many iPhones were available at launch. But analysts expect it will sell out by early next week — between sales rung up at retail stores and online through Apple's Web site, which has been a major distribution outlet for other Apple products.

BSNL reduces ISD rates to US, Gulf

NEW DELHI, June 10: Triggering another price war in the ISD segment, state-run telecom major BSNL has reduced call rates to the US, Canada and the Gulf to Rs 1.75 per minute and Rs 6.75 per minute, respectively, slightly lower than the rates offered by private firms.

US, Canada and Gulf are the busiest ISD routes from India and with the drop of rates, BSNL hopes to scale up volumes, a BSNL official said.

Private players at present offer ISD calls at the rate of Rs 1.99 per minute to the US and Rs 6.99 a minute for the Gulf countries.

BSNL will soon introduce a new STD/ISD calling card, Call Now, that will enable a user to call someone in the US at the rate of Rs 1.75 per minute using a card of Rs 2,000, which will have a validity of three months.

Call charges in the same card are Rs 3.25 per minute to France, Russia, the UK and South-East Asia, Rs 5.50 per minute to the rest of Europe and Sri Lanka, and Rs 8 per minute to the rest of the world. Under this plan, local and STD charges are Re 1 per minute.

In May, leading private player Bharti Airtel dropped ISD charges to the US and Canada after which an Airtel mobile user could call at Rs 1.99 per minute with the Airtel STD and ISD Calling Card worth Rs 2,245.

Rel-Comm also had cut its rates to the US and Canada to Rs 1.99 per minute on its 'Reliance Global Call Card' of Rs 1,900. It had recently cut call charges to the Gulf to Rs 6.99 per minute.

iPhone to arrive on June 29

SAN FRANCISCO, June 5: Apple Inc.'s highly anticipated iPhone, with service provided by AT&T Inc., will go on sale on June 29, the company said on its Website on Sunday.

The maker of Mac personal computers and iPod digital media players had previously said only that its new cellular telephone would debut in late June.

It's unclear what June 29 means: that the iPhone will arrive on your doorstep if you've ordered one, or if you will have to go to an AT&T (formerly Cingular) corporate store to obtain one. AT&T has not yet started to accept orders for the iPhone, but one could imagine that that will occur soon.

AT&T recently changed the signage and other details at its many corporate stores to shed the Cingular logo and name in preparation for the iPhone launch, the company said a few weeks ago.

The iPhone will appear in two models: a 4 GB unit for $499 and an 8 GB model for $599. The iPhone includes Wi-Fi and EDGE support, the latter being a cell data standard that runs two to three times faster than a dial-up modem, and is widely available. Pricing for Wi-Fi and EDGE plans hasn't yet been announced.

T-Mobile offers the closest competition for such a package, with $30 per month covering unlimited use of EDGE data everywhere and Wi-Fi connections at over 7,000 US T-Mobile Wi-Fi hot spots.

BSNL, MTNL, Rcom cut roaming charges

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, June 1: The public-sector telecom operators, MTNL and BSNL, have slashed national roaming charges to Re 1 for incoming calls and Re 0.40 for outgoing calls within any visiting network as part of a new post-paid plan to be launched on June 3.

The monthly rental for the plan has been fixed at Rs 550.
The subscribers will also get 300 minutes of free talk time for receiving calls.

The users after exhausting the free talk time would have to shell out Re 1 for incoming calls and Re 0.40 for outgoing calls within any visiting network, BSNL CMD A K Sinha and his MTNL counterpart R S P Sinha told newsmen here.

However, outgoing calls to networks outside the visiting state will be charged at Re 1.

Both the operators are expecting 20 to 25 per cent jump in their traffic with this scheme.

Communications Minister A Raja, who was present on the occasion, said private operators are expected to follow BSNL and MTNL in reducing roaming charges.

Asked if roaming charges would become zero, Raja said: "It will be done in future. Today is the first step towards it."

Raja's predecessor Dayanidhi Maran had planned to abolish the domestic roaming charges on the occasion of his party (DMK) President M Karunanidhi's birthday on June 3.

BSNL also introduced a calling card -- Callnow, which will enable users to make ISD calls to the US and Canada at Rs 1.75 per minute and to the Gulf countries at Rs 6.75 per minute.

The card is available for Rs 2,000 and comes with free talktime of the same amount.

Meanwhile, Reliance Communications (RCOM) on Friday announced the launch of Free Roaming for Reliance Mobile customers. The India Roam Free Plans, for Reliance Mobile post-paid customers, have been unveiled within a week of a 70 per cent reduction in roaming rates.

“RCOM’s India Roam free plans have been designed with specific insights on the roaming requirement of telecom subscribers in the country”, said S.P Shukla – President, Personal Business- Reliance Communications.

“The new India Roam Free plan 390 offers 200 free minutes of incoming calls while roaming. Outgoing calls including while roaming are charged at 40 paise per minute to local Reliance and all other calls at Re 1.

Similarly, on the India Roam Free plan 990 a subscriber gets a whopping 1300 minutes of Free Roaming talktime, distributed over 900 minutes of incoming calls while roaming and 400 minutes of free local calling. A nominal charge of 50p for local calls and Re 1 for STD calls would be applicable for customers choosing this tariff plan.

While today’s announcement would significantly benefit the Post-paid subscribers, last week Reliance had announced a 70% cut in the roaming tariffs on both Pre-paid and Post-paid plans taking roaming rates to as low as 40p per minute. The Pre-paid ‘roaming friendly’ options are available on recharge vouchers of Rs. 770 recharge and Rs 520 respectively.

MTNL launches voice SMS service on fixed, mobile phones

NEW DELHI, May 22: State-run MTNL has launched voice SMS service for its fixed and mobile subscribers in Delhi with technological support from the US-based value-added services provider Kirusa.

This is the first time that fixed line subscribers will be able to receive Voice SMS service. The corporation hopes to garner strong revenues from this value-added service.

The subscribers will have to shell out one rupee per minute to send, forward or reply to a voice SMS message.

There are no charges for listening to such messages for the first time, but hearing it again will cost rupee one per minute.

"The Kirusa Voice SMS is a unique convergent service that works seamlessly for fixed and mobile customers of MTNL. We believe that it will generate heavy usage as it provides value to our entire subscriber base," MTNL Executive Director A K Arora said.

This service would also be available to MTNL subscribers in Mumbai shortly.

Company Executive Director (Operations) K C Gupta said, "We are confident that the Convergent Voice SMS will be heartily adopted by the MTNL subscribers, and we plan to market this unique service to our customers aggressively."

Reliance drops roaming prices by 70 per cent

CHENNAI, May 22: Starting a price war, Reliance Communications has slashed its roaming rates by about 70 per cent at the lowest 40 paise a minute on some select plans, while incoming has been made just Re 1 per minute.

Incoming calls on roaming has been reduced to just Re 1 a minute from Rs 1.75 a minute.

In February, TRAI had reduced the roaming charges, as per which, the maximum permissible charge for roaming calls, irrespective of terminating networks and tariff plans, was set at Rs 1.40 per minute for outgoing local calls, Rs 2.40 for outgoing national long distance calls and Rs 1.75 for incoming calls. The telecom regulator had already removed rentals.

Roaming charge reduction gained more ground after former Telecom Minister Dayanidhi Maran had told the media that he was planning the abolition of national roaming charges as a gift to Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi on his birthday on June 3.

The current Minister A Raja has said the Government is looking into the possibility.

Reliance Communications President (Personal Business) SP Shukla said, "Now, we have taken a step further by reducing roaming rates to as low as 40 paise per minute on select plans. This should add real value to those customers, who travel frequently."

A significant feature of this rate reduction has been on incoming calls during roaming, which have been reduced from current Rs 1.75 per minute to Re 1 per minute.

This move of Reliance comes close on the heels of launch of the Rs 777 monochrome handset, Rs 1234 colour handset and the Rs 499 Lifetime Recharge Voucher.

These plans on Post-paid and Pre-paid are available for subscription starting today.

Blackberry on Reliance network "soon"

NEW DELHI, May 14: High-end mobile device Blackberry, which was till now available only with the GSM operators, will be soon launched on CDMA platform by Reliance Communications.

At present, only Bharti Airtel and Hutch-Essar offer the wireless e-mail solution. Asked when the company would launch Blackberry on its network, Reliance Communications President (Wireless) SP Shukla said, "very soon."

He, however, refused to divulge any further details. The company today unveiled new range of Reliance Classic colour mobile phones priced in the range of Rs 1,222-1,299.

RCom recently unveiled Classic monochrome handset at a competitive price of Rs 777 and claims to have sold one million handsets in just one week of the launch.

"I have no reason to doubt why our new range of colour phones will not match the success of Rs 777 scheme," Shukla said without giving any exact number which the company is targeting.

He said the company is focusing on new as well as existing customers, who would like to switch to colour phones. Classic handsets come with SIM cards, which allow subscribers to changeover from one model to another. The subscribers, however, do not have the choice of shifting to another CDMA operator.

Reliance colour phones now for Rs 1,234

NEW DELHI, May 14: Reliance Communications (RCOM) Monday launched a range of colour mobile phones for as low as Rs 1,234 soon after it launched handsets costing just Rs 777 in the monochrome range.

The new range, called 'Classic Colour', is the cheapest in the industry when compared with other players. It would be available under the CDMA technology of mobile telephony. This means a consumer would not be able to use them with any other number except for RCOM.

"We have sold over one million handsets of our Classic monochrome range, which we launched just earlier this month," S P Shukla, president (personal business), RCOM told a press conference.

"With the launch of these phones, we are expecting similar sales," Shukla added.

The company launched three models - Classic 631, Classic 632 and Classic 231 - priced at Rs 1,222, Rs 1,234 and Rs 1,299, respectively. Reliance was offering LG coloured handsets for about Rs 2,000 before the launch of this new range.

The Anil Ambani-controlled company recently reported a turnover of Rs 174.4 billion and a net profit of Rs 35.26 billion for the quarter ending March 31.

The firm, which provides broadband and telephony services in the country and also operates a global fibre optics network, said it would invest Rs 100 billion this year as capital expenditure for expansion.

Reliance Communications, which has a subscriber base of 30 million and more than 12,000 towers to cater to its growing mobile telecommunications business, is hiving off some entities as separate companies, officials said.

Vodafone pays $10.9b to Hutch

LONDON/BEIJING, May 10: UK's Vodafone has paid a discounted price of $10.9 billion in cash for Indian mobile firm Hutch-Essar to complete a deal that gives it access to one of the fastest growing mobile markets to counter saturation in European markets.

The final price represents a reduction of $180 million from the originally agreed price of $11.08 billion, which reflects retention and closing adjustments as agreed with seller Hutchison Telecom.

The adjustments include provisions for a previously announced settlement pact with Indian partner Essar.

"I am delighted that, having secured all the necessary regulatory approvals, we are now able to complete this important transaction and move onto the process of integration," Vodafone CEO Arun Sarin said. The transaction was completed on May 8, Hong Kong-based Hutchison Telecommunications International Ltd (HTIL), which sold its entire stake in the company, said in a release.

The stage is now set for Vodafone to start its operations in India, which is witnessing an addition of five million new mobile subscribers every month. Hutch-Essar will become Vodafone-Essar over a period of time.

The estimated pre-tax gain from the sale is expected to be approximately $9 billion to HTIL. The adjustments also include $352 million retention by Vodafone towards cost and expenses associated with the transactions. The net cash inflow to HTIL before payment of the settlement amount is about $10.83 billion.

HTIL is expected to declare a special dividend of HK $6.75 per share following the completion of the necessary formalities. Commenting on the transaction, Hutchison Telecom chairman Canning Fok said: "Today marks the conclusion of an outstandingly successful venture for Hutchison Telecom."

"We exit the Indian market as one of the best capitalised telecom companies in the region which will enable us to react swiftly to new opportunities and to accelerate growth in our existing markets," he said.

Earlier, the deal was cleared by the Foreign Investment Promotion Board, which looked into allegations of breach of FDI norms in the company. India allows a maximum FDI of 74% in the telecom sector. Vodafone acquired 52% direct stake of HTIL in Hutch-Essar, while Indian partner Essar holds 33% and three minority shareholders the remaining 15%.

RIM to set up R&D, service hub in India

ORLANDO, May 10: Blackberry-maker Research In Motion (RIM) will soon set up its R&D and customer support base in India. The company could in fact look at turning India into a hub for its customer support services eventually.

Though the Ontario, Canada-based company is yet to finalise the size of investment, it is expected to be fairly large, translating into multi-million dollar operation.

“We are very excited about setting up base in India and are actively looking at starting our own research and software development centre there within a year. We would be quite crazy not to do that given the country’s proven expertise and sophistication in these areas. I cannot share specific details right now because we are still in the planning stage,” RIM co-CEO Jim Balsillie said on the sidelights of the Canadian company’s sixth annual WES 2007 conference here.

The company is also working with a number of Indian software development companies popularly referred to as independent software vendors (ISVs) for developing enterprise applications that run on its mainstay Blackberry Enterprise Server (BES). It is BES that runs all the enterprise-centric apps based on RIM’s highly successful `Push services’ platform, including corporate e-mails, for its corporate customers.

However, RIM is not considering setting up manufacturing operation in India. Instead, it is exploring possibility of setting up its fourth manufacturing unit in China after Canada, Mexico and Hungry. A number of other handset-manufacturers such as Motorola, Samsung and Nokia have set up handset manufacturing units in India in recent times, but RIM has decided otherwise.

RIM had set up a global customer support centre in Singapore last year for Blackberry users worldwide. It has close to 100 people. But Indian operations could dwarf the Singapore operations within next 18 months, or earlier. “Stay tuned on announcements coming from our side on India. There will be a lot in the coming months,” Balsillie said.

India has already emerged as a “very strategic and long-term market” for Blackberry with double digit sales growth figures every quarter, according to senior company executives.

“It has emerged as one of our best growth markets globally. The country clearly has a lot of infrastructure investments to make, but when it comes to knowledge workers and productivity, India is second to none,” added Balsillie.

Interestingly, despite a lot of price pressure and competition in India, Blackberry will work on localizing its product designs and offerings. “At the end of the day, Blackberry is a B2B product. There is no doubt that we will have to drive the prices down, but localization would be key in the Indian market,” according to Balsillie.

Dell to introduce Rs 10,000 PC

New Delhi: Global computer maker Dell is in the process of launching low-cost personal computer at about $ 238 (Rs 10,000) across the world, including India.

"We are testing the product in China. The PC would be customised according to the market and customer needs," Dell India General Manager (Sales) Sameer Garde said on the sidelines of company's product launch.

However, he refused to give the exact time frame for the launch of such PCs and said, "as soon as we are over with the testing and we clear the hurdles, we will make an announcement."

The company today unveiled three new laptops for the Indian market in the price range of about Rs 52,000-64,000. "The new products will have longer battery life, increased connectivity and performance," he added.

Dell is looking at alternate models, including greater focus on consumer segment, low-cost computers and machines suited to India conditions.

The company's CEO Michael Dell during his visit in India during March had said, "We will look at broader opportunities... sure we will look at low-cost personal computers," Dell said when asked whether the company will look to address lower end of the segment.

“Dell's revenues in India grew 70 per cent year-on-year previous year to 500 million dollars and the company is rapidly closing toward one billion dollars,” Garde said.

TRAI proposes lower FDI, annual fee on ISPs

NEW DELHI, May 10: Upset with poor quality Internet services despite a liberal regime, telecom regulator TRAI today proposed drastic steps, including reduction in FDI cap and imposition of licence fee, on Internet Service Providers.

The Authority has recommended lowering the FDI limit from the existing 100 per cent to 74 per cent, on par with telecom sector, and proposed imposing an annual license fee of six per cent of gross revenue.

TRAI, in its recommendations to Department of Telecom, supported liberal licensing framework for ISPs to boost Internet penetration, but envisaged a framework which would enable "serious players" in this sector to offer services.

The ISPs, however, expressed apprehension on the proposal of annual licence fee, saying this would increase the cost of broadband service. But they felt lowering the FDI limit would bring in a level-playing field and improve services.

"The uniform license fee of six per cent of Adjusted Gross Revenues (AGR) will affect the end consumers as the cost of broadband services will increase by 6-24 per cent," Internet Service Providers Association of India President Rajesh Chharia said.

Minister for IT and communications Dayanidhi Maran had declared this year as the 'Year of Broadband' with a target of nine million broadband subscribers by end of 2007 and imposition of annual levy could spoil the party, he said.

TRAI's tough recommendations stem from the fact that of the 700 ISP licenses given in the last three years, only 135 are functional today.

"The Authority hopes the recommendations, if accepted by DoT will contribute to Internet penetration, curb grey market and effectively provide level playing field and above all serve consumers interest," TRAI said.

Blackberry turning enterprise wonder?

ORLANDO, May 9: Blackberry is not just an email device anymore. That was at turn of the last century when Blackberry hit the markets (first in the US and Canada) with its then-revolutionary 850 and 950 devices.

Life for Blackberry users has since moved from carrying a fancy email device to carrying a virtual platform that today supports most enterprise applications, and will soon support just about all. Add voice convergence between fixed-mobile networks to that and one can see how the corporate world would soon be moving fast towards desktop freedom!

That in nutshell is how one can describe the future of Blackberry, the device (and now the application platform on many rivals' handsets!). Ask the legendary Blackberry founder and Reserach in Motion (RIM) president and co-CEO Mike Lazaridis and this is exactly what he will tell you.

So the future of Blackberry may be safe and sound. But what does it contain for Blackberry?

Speaking at the company's annual jumbooree WES 2007 conference being attended by over 3,500 partners, mobile carriers, application developers, solution provider and IT managers, Lazaridis did some future-gazing and declared that Blackberry is actually at the cutting edge turn of technology.

It has already turned into a full-fledged platform, so much so that people are beginning to leave behind their laptops when they are traveling. Collaboration applications through mobile devices will soon be a mutli-billion market worldwide and it is set to see significant growth, he added.

Unified communications will be the next big thing and it is set to push up the data usage through Blackberry devices in corporate environments worldwide to new limits, according to Lazaridis. In fact, a full call login can be built into the device system using the Blackberry Enterprise Server (BES) wherein a caller or receiver can conference and even transfer a call across various networks be it on fixed or wireless platform.

Similarly, IT managers in an organisation with Blackberry-armed employees will soon be able to control and manage just about everything, including your location, voice communications et al and figure out if it is in alignment with corporate directives and requirements. Welcome to the wireless black sleuth impanted on you that you know as Blackberry!

But besides such usage of Blackberry as a true network device, it will also soon be possible to harness the true power of things like multiple corporate instant messaging platforms through Blackberry or Blackberry-supprted devices such as Symbian-run or Windows -run phones that support Blackberry Connect. Talk of moving away beyond the computing tools that each and every enterprise today has access to.

"For years, I have been hoping to be able to use Blackberry to fully connect to and harness the corporate environment including email systems, legacy PBX or IP-based hybrid systems. Eventually if a corporate user can be completely freed from computing and telephony needs, from desktop and phone on his seat in his office space, and all of this perfectly provided on a mobile device, isn't it wonderful?” asked Lazaridis, giving clear indications where Blackberry is headed in the coming years.

With location-based services and mapping applications, corporate IT managers can use Blackberry Enterprise Server (BES)-based functions to provide audit data, retail data, CRM applications and real-time information applications on just about any business function to anyone, anywhere, anytime.

The conference, sixth in a row, is being attended and supported by a number of significant technology players such as Avaya, SAP, IBM, Symbian and Telenav.

Nokia unveils thin Barracuda, 6 more new phones

NEW DELHI, May 4: Top world cell phone maker Nokia has unveiled a thin 'Barracuda' phone and six other handsets priced under 100 euros on Thursday, including its cheapest 1200 model expected to sell for 35 euros ($48).

The Finnish firm, which sells more than a third of all phones across the world, has a strong position in emerging markets, but in developed markets Motorola and Samsung have attacked it with popular thin phones.

The Barracuda, or Nokia 2630, is slightly below 10 millimeters (0.4 inch) thick, comparable with most rival thin phones.

The handset will hit the shelves next quarter, with an estimated retail price of 85 euros, excluding operator subsidies and taxes.

"At these prices, the largest volumes are sold -- on both developed and emerging markets. Of course we expect to see very high volumes from Barracuda," said a Nokia official.

"It was a sign of change in the overall thinking .... It's the whole new approach to marketing and communications as a whole, clearly less conservative and somewhat more aggressive and forward-looking than earlier," he said.

Analysts welcomed the long-awaited phone, which has a camera on the back and also incorporates Bluetooth technology, which is widely used in mid- and high-end phones and enables the phone to connect to a headset or laptop without wires.

"It's thin, it's light and it has quite appealing features," said an analyst.

One of the keys to Nokia's success in the lower end of the market has been its wider product offering than those of rivals, who have competed for the space with one cheap phone here or there.

Nokia also is benefiting from its early entry into fast-growing emerging markets, such as India, where it often has more than a 50 percent market share.

All seven new phones, which were unveiled in India, are priced below 100 euros and are set to appear in the shops this quarter or next.

"The company wants to show it is offering a wide portfolio and not ride just on one product."

RIM unveils newest BlackBerry: The Curve

NEW YORK, May 4: BlackBerry maker Research in Motion Ltd. is introducing its third new model in less than a year, a mid-sized device geared toward consumers who might prefer a full keyboard for typing text rather than the abridged one on the popular Pearl.

The Curve, named for its smooth edges, will be offered first by AT&T Inc., though no launch date or pricing was disclosed in a news release Thursday.

The device has a front trackball below the screen to navigate its menus, a feature that RIM introduced last year with the Pearl as a replacement for its signature side wheel for thumbing through e-mail. With the Pearl's success, RIM also added the trackball to the 8800, the new version of its top-end phone for business users.

Despite its popularity, the Pearl may not appeal to users who don't like its unique keyboard design, which places two letters on each key and relies on predictive software to choose the desired letter.

The Curve has one letter per key, so it's wider from side to side than the Pearl though still small compared with many full-keyboard phones. The device, weighing 3.9 ounces, is 4.2 inches deep by 2.4 inches wide, and 0.6 inch thick.

Other features include a 2 megapixel camera with digital zoom and a flash, as well as a 3.5 millimeter stereo headset jack rather than the smaller earphone port found on most cell phones.

Airtel reduces roaming tariffs by up to 56 pc

NEW DELHI, Feb 14: Telecom major Bharti Airtel has reduced roaming tariffs by up to 56 percent and also scrapped the rental for roaming services as per the telecom regulator TRAI's guidelines issued last month.

The roaming tariff, which would be applicable from tomorrow, will reduce the rates from 40-56 percent as compared with the current market rates and will benefit Bharti's over 33 million subscribers.

A mobile user on roaming would now have to pay Rs 1.40 per minute for making a local call as against existing rates of Rs 2.89-3.09.

The charges for receiving incoming calls on roaming would come down to Rs 1.75 per minute and that for making STD calls to Rs 2.40 per minute.

The current charge for receiving incoming calls and making STD calls while roaming stand at Rs 3.54-3.99.

The monthly rental of Rs 49 has also been done away with, it said, adding the outgoing SMS while roaming would now cost Rs 2 from existing Rs 3.45.

"With these tariffs, all Airtel mobile users will benefit from our seamless network and have the opportunity to make calls while travelling anywhere in India," Bharti Airtel Joint President Mobile Services Sanjay Kapoor said.



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