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Apple iPhone Tunes into India

Earlier this month, two telecom operators-Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Essar-announced their plans to launch the Apple iPhone in India. Market buzz is that both subscribers will launch the iPhone around the country's Diwali festive season in October 2008, when consumer spending is at an all-time high.

"There is a certain thrill and euphoria around owning iPhone," said Rajiv Makhni, technology managing editor of NDTV, and anchor of local TV program Cell Guru on NDTV 24X7, a leading news channel in India. "The phone has a seriously large user base in India." Cell Guru is a TV program featuring mobile phones and technology.

Makhni told ZDNetAsia in a phone interview that he receives 2,000 e-mail messages a week for Cell Guru and 20 percent of the e-mail pertain to the iPhone.

"And even though the iPhone has not been officially launched [in India], 10 percent of the people I know already own an iPhone," he said.

Harish Bijoor, brand-domain specialist and CEO of Harish Bijoor Consults, said in an e-mail interview: "With two leading operators launching the iPhone, the Indian consumer will have a wider plank to choose from."

Vodafone has signed an agreement with Apple to sell the iPhone in 10 of its markets around the globe. According to a statement released by Vodafone, its customers in Australia, the Czech Republic, Egypt, Greece, Italy, India, Portugal, New Zealand, South Africa and Turkey, will be able to purchase the iPhone for use on the Vodafone network.

Bharti Airtel, on the other hand, is bringing the iPhone to India through an agreement with its affiliates Singapore Telecommunications (SingTel), Globe Telecom and Optus. Through this agreement, SingTel will debut the iPhone in Singapore, the Philippines and Australia later this year.

Bharti Airtel is the largest GSM mobile operator in India, servicing nearly 62 million mobile subscribers, while Vodafone Essar is the second largest GSM operator with over 41 million subscribers.

With two operators bringing the iPhone into India, Bijoor said "upgrading from the mobile user's existing handset to the iPhone will be that much easier".

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