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Vodafone to launch 3G services by year-end
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Vodafone Essar, the Indian subsidiary of Vodafone Group Plc, aims to launch 3G mobile services by end-2010, a top company official said.

Broader services of 3G will be available by the first quarter of next year, he added.


"We are ready to launch 3G services in nine circles by this year-end. We are waiting for spectrum allocation. As soon as we get the spectrum, we will be able to launch our services," Vodafone Essar Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director Marten Pieters told reporters here today.

Vodafone had secured 3G spectrum in nine circles in the recent 3G auctions for Rs 11,617 crore. The circles included Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai and Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra & Goa, Gujarat, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh (East) and West Bengal, covering over 60 per cent of the company's current customer base.

"Vodafone Essar has secured a critical strategic footprint across the country, particularly in the markets where we expect the main demand for 3G services to be in the next few years. We expect a strong uptake for 3G in these markets, particularly among the higher value customers, which is a growing segment owing to rising affluence and increasing urban population," Pieters said, adding that the customer would have to pay more to get better 3G services.

Commenting on the Indus Tower IPO, Pieters said, "We are in de-merger process and are supporting the initial public offering of Indus Tower. But, it all depends on the financial market and other related issues."

In late 2007, India's top mobile operators -- Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Essar and Idea Cellular -- had decided to pool their resources and hive off their towers into an independent firm, Indus Towers, with over 1 lakh towers.

Vodafone Essar is also open to mergers and acquisitions, if they provide value to the company as well as shareholders.

"If it (M&A) is able to provide a good proposition to us, we will look into that. However, prices and regulations in the current situation are not favourable for mergers," Pieters added.

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Plans Should Be Reasonable...
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