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Thursday, Apr 04, 2002

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TN CM rings in Bharti Touchtel services

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GETTING CONNECTED: The Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, Ms J. Jayalalithaa, inaugurating Bharti's basic services, `Touchtel', by ringing up the Prime Minister, Mr A.B. Vajpayee. Standing behind her is Mr Rajan Bharti Mittal, Joint Managing Director of the Bharti group. Mr Sunil Bharti Mittal, Chairman & Managing Director, is at the centre.

CHENNAI, April 3

THE Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, Ms J. Jayalalithaa, on Wednesday launched Touchtel, the Bharti group's basic telecommunication and fixed line services in the State, with a telephone call to the Prime Minister, Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee. This is the first such private sector initiative in the State.

The Chairman and Group Managing Director, Bharti Enterprises, Mr Sunil Bharti Mittal, said at the launch that Tamil Nadu was set to become the southern headquarters for the Delhi-based group.

Chennai accounted for about Rs 2,500 crore of the group's total investment of Rs 6,000 crore. Its submarine cable project, whose landing point is in Chennai, has connected the city to Singapore. The telecommunications infrastructure in the State would provide an impetus to the development of information technology, he said.

Later, addressing a press conference, Mr Mittal hoped that Bharti would be able to get about 100,000 subscribers for its basic services in Tamil Nadu by the end of the first year. A majority of these would come from new customers, while some would be those who wanted a second telephone line, especially high-use customers such as hotels and other commercial establishments.

Initially, Bharti's basic services would be available in a few areas in the city, where the group's optical fibre cable network is in place. In the next few months, this will be extended to other areas.

The Touchtel network of fixed line services are available in Delhi, Haryana and Madhya Pradesh, with the services due to be launched in Karnataka on Thursday.

According to a press release, Touchtel customers would have a host of features on their fixed line telephones, including caller line identification, call forwarding, call handling, call waiting, reminder services, Centrex services, DSL services and video conferencing.

In addition, Touchtel would offer a free Internet connection with no access charges for 90 days starting from today. Touchtel will also launch a host of value-added services in a phased manner.

According to the release, Touchtel services would be available in Madurai and Coimbatore by June. Touchtel has set up a network comprising one main switching unit, six remote switching units, nine digital loop carriers and more than 1,150 km of optical fibre and plans to lay 589 km of copper lines.

"I congratulate you and the people of Tamil Nadu,'' was the Prime Minister's response to Ms Jayalalithaa, when she called him on the Touchtel line.

The Prime Minister said: "Our telecom policy of 1999 has brought many results. The number of Internet subscribers has increased dramatically, tariffs have come down and telephone is no longer a luxury but a necessity... ''

Speaking at the launch, Ms Jayalalithaa said the State Government would welcome any private initiative that aimed to bridge the rural-urban digital divide. The technology-based telecommunication initiative in Tamil Nadu would give a fillip to agriculture and agro-based industries, and industry in general, including the tiny and small-scale sector.

The State's telecommunication infrastructure would be a key driver of economic development, attract international players to invest here and motivate larger investments by industry, particularly, those in information technology and IT-enabled services.

Tamil Nadu has the highest tele-density in the country. It has the highest percentage of telephone exchanges on the Optical Fibre Cable network. However, the State will not be complacent, and continue to consolidate this position.

The presence of a world-class connectivity network is crucial to development of IT and industry and the city key to socio-economic development, she said.

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