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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Future Group to roll out mobile service nationwide.Will this be the 4th SIM of Indians? Or 5th?

Future Group, which launched its T24 mobile telephone service in a partnership with Tata Teleservices Ltd, plans a national rollout in a couple of months, a top executive said.

T24, launched in June, is aimed at tapping the millions of customers visiting Future Group’s retail chains such as Big Bazaar, Pantaloons and Food Bazaar. It offers free talk-time to shoppers on purchases at these stores.

Over the past six months, the group has signed up around 350,000 subscribers in the telecom circles it operates in— Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand.

“It is still a regional or a local brand, so to speak,” said Mayur Toshniwal, the group’s chief executive for telecom. “We have to make it a national brand.”

Toshniwal said the company aims to add a “few million” subscribers in the next year. “It (the T24 business) won’t be in thousands of crore (of revenue), but it definitely will be in hundreds of crore in the next 12 months,” he said, but declined to share specific revenue projections.

Toshniwal said Future Group also sees huge potential in offering other telecom services as well through Tata Teleservices, the country’s fourth largest cellular operator by subscribers.

India’s mobile phone subscriber base is growing rapidly. In October, the country added 19 million wireless subscribers, taking the overall base to 707 million, according to data from the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India.

Tata Teleservices has a similar partnership with UK-based Virgin Group for a sub-branded mobile service called Virgin, which was launched in India in 2008.

“In such a partnership, Virgin doesn’t need to have telecom’s physical infrastructure, towers, licences, spectrum, and they use the Tata’s backbone and network,” said Romal Shetty, head of telecom at consultancy KPMG, speaking about the Tata Telservices-Virgin tie-up. “...they do it on (a) revenue-sharing (basis). They just need to create a product-oriented brand.”

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