July 31, 1995: Today West Bengal Chief Minister made India's first cellular phone call, inaugurating Modi Telstra's MobileNet service in Calcutta. The company, a joint venture between India's Modi Group and Australian telecom giant Telstra, is one of the eight licensed to provide cellular services last year, two for each of India's major cities.
Delays have been for various reasons, including last-minute haggling between the companies and India's Department of Telecommunications (DoT) and problems with allocating frequencies (many of which the Army using them for its own communications - is reluctant to give up). The providers started advertising only around April, and most, including those in Bombay and Delhi, say they will start services later this month, assuming they finish installing their equipment.
After the demonstration in Calcutta, there is still a technical evaluation that Modi Telstra's network will have to undergo. That should take a week, then it will start commercial operation.
Meanwhile, the DoT today opened and cleared the technical portion of all 158 bids from 32 companies for nationwide cellular services. These covered 20 'circles' excluding India's main cities for which licenses were awarded earlier. Financial bids will be opened next Monday (August 7th), to select two private service providers for each circle - except for Assam and West Bengal (of which Calcutta is the capital), which received only one bid each. The troubled northern state of Jammu and Kashmir, and the remote Andaman and Nicobar islands off the Burmese coasts, received no bids at all.
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