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May 22, 2002 | 1305 IST
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BPL Mobile plans $100 mn network spread

Thomas K Thomas

With a view to tap the booming mobile services market, BPL Mobile plans to invest close to $100 million this fiscal towards expanding its network in the Mumbai, Kerala, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu circles. This is over 150 per cent more than the company's last year's investments of $40 million.

Sandip Basu, executive vice president and chief financial officer, BPL Mobile, said: "We expect an exponential growth in the cellular sector in the next one year.

In order to meet the growing demand, we are investing between $75 and $100 million this fiscal to upgrade our network in the four circles where we operate."

A major portion of the investment will be made in the Mumbai circle and about $25 will be invested in the first quarter of the year. The funds will be raised through internal resources.

Basu added that BPL will add to its installed base stations, set up new mobile switching centres, increase the number of repeaters and expand its existing infrastructure.

The company is also introducing new billing systems and more value on its pre-paid and SMS platform. BPL will also invest in setting up an Intelligent Networking platform in its areas of operations.

Basu said that letter of intent for purchase of equipment has been given to Nokia, Siemens and Motorola.

Elaborating on the growth of the cellular market, Basu said that the number of cellular subscribers are expected to go beyond that of fixed line users with consumers substituting fixed line telephones with mobile phones.

In Mumbai, BPL has crossed the 450,000 subscriber mark and in Maharashtra, it has over 180,000 users.

In Tamil Nadu, the company has 130,000 cellular subscribers and in Kerala over 150,000 consumers are on BPL's network. Basu said he expected close to a 95 per cent growth in the cellular subscriber base this year.

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