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January 29, 2001
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Birla AT&T in bid to establish mobile phone link with Bhuj

Birla AT&T, a cellular service provider in Gujarat, hopes to launch mobile phone links with Bhuj, the worst-hit town in earthquake affected Gujarat by Monday evening, a top company official said.

"We don't have Bhuj as part of our cellular network yet. But we have despatched a portable site to Bhuj by road. The connectivity to Bhuj should be up by Monday evening," Sanjeev Aga, the firm's chief executive officer, told Reuters.

The portable cellular site will be an important link with Bhuj where communications links snapped after the quake on Friday. The region is connected by a few satellite phones and ham radio sets.

With land line links largely non-functioning, residents of Gujarat have been dependent on cellular networks to remain in touch with the outside world. Aga said his firm has handled upto 50,000 calls per hour since the quake measuring 7.9 on the Richter scale struck.

He added that the firm had earlier on Monday, restored cellular links with Gandhidham in Kutch district, another severely hit area. Connectivity with Gandhidham had been disrupted for the past three days since the firm's main cellular site collapsed due to the quake.

The earthquake, the worst to hit India in nearly 50 years, is estimated to have killed up to 20,000 people and injured tens of thousands of others.

Birla AT&T is a joint venture between Aditya Vikram Birla group and AT&T Corp.

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