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Mumbai, Dec 28: From now on, bus commuters in Mumbai can make calls - even international - from telephone sets installed in the city's BEST buses.

To start with, Brihanmumbai Electricity Supply and Transport (BEST) has installed 75 telephones. The entire fleet of 3,400 single and double-decker buses will be fitted with telephones in a phased manner.

Explaining the economics of the project, BEST general manager Uttam Khobragade said private sector telephone service providers Hutch and Tata Indicom will install public call offices (PCOs) on the buses.

"While Hutch will install 1,774 GSM-based mobile PCOs within February, Tata Indicom will install another 1,626 phones in the next two months. The phone boxes with coin slots will be behind the driver's seat," Khobragade told reporters Wednesday.

The BEST, in a win-win situation, will get as much as 42.5 percent of the total revenue generated from the calls per month.

"While the telephone providers will install and maintain the telephone boxes, the BEST will approximately earn Rs.50 lakhs (Rs.5 million) per month from the project, with the telephone companies paying Rs.150 per bus per month."

"While a local call will cost Re.1 for 60 seconds, STD calls to any landline anywhere outside the city will cost Re.1 for 20 seconds. International calls will be charged at Re.1 for 6 seconds," Khobragade said.

BEST is touted as the "best maintained and run" public service operator in the country.

"We are shortly going to introduce innovative grab handles on our fleet. Transparent fibre-made handles will be installed by a private company - Admire Sign & Display Pvt Ltd. It will pay BEST Rs.100 per bus per month. In return, the company will have its advertisements on these handles," Khobragade said.


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