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Chennai, Aug. 17

BHARAT Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL), the State-owned telecommunications company, is in the process of finalising tenders for an additional six crore mobile phone lines, according to the Union Minister for Communications, Mr Dayanidhi Maran. This will be taken up next year, he told reporters here on Wednesday. It is in the process of expanding its mobile capacity by 1.6 crore lines, which is expected to be completed by December.

Earlier, addressing a function to launch 40-lakh additional mobile phone capacity in the southern States, Mr Maran asserted that BSNL would take on competition from the private sector and become the leading mobile services provider once the expansion project was completed. In any case, he said, while private mobile service providers started operations in 1994, BSNL entered the business only in 2002 and had come this far in such a short time.

He said that Chennai and Tamil Nadu mobile circles would become one circle from October 1. Asked about this, he told reporters that operators were the same in both the circles and hence the Ministry was removing artificial barriers. He recalled that two months ago, the Ministry removed the need for STD dialling between Chennai and Tamil Nadu circles, as also in Maharashtra and Mumbai circles, Uttar Pradesh East and West circles, and Kolkata and West Bengal circles.

To a question, he said the operators were different in the case of Mumbai and Maharashtra circles and hence there were problems in merging them into one. At the function, it was also announced that seven short distance charge areas (SDCAs), a local area in a telecom network, would be merged with Chennai Telephones from October 1 to create a Greater Chennai telephone district. The seven SDCAs are: Chingleput, Ponneri, Tiruvallur, Sriperumbudur, Madurantakam, Kanchipuram and Tiruttani. A large number of industries are located in these seven SDCAs and merging them with Chennai Telephones was meant to improve the quality of service to these industries.

According to a BSNL press release, the network in the present expansion in mobile capacity would be upgraded to EDGE (Enhanced Data Rate for GSM Evolution) technology, which offered higher data rate for video transmission to lead to 3G in the next phase.

Nortel, which is providing the infrastructure for this phase of BSNL's expansion, said in a release that it had deployed GSM (Global System for Mobile communication) radio base stations, mobile switching centres and intelligent network capabilities to provide wireless voice and data services. Nortel was also providing BSNL with project management, commissioning and installation services.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated August 18, 2005)
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