Spice to launch $20 'phone for the people' in India

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The Independent Online

Hot on the heels of Tata's people's car and the people's laptop, comes the people's phone.

The $20 (roughly £10) product will be unveiled tomorrow at Barcelona's Mobile World Congress – the world's biggest telecoms conference,

The handset, which includes a Braille version, is to be launched in India by Spice, the $2bn Bombay-listed telecoms giant.

BK Modi, chairman of Spice, said: "The People's Phone is a world first. It will be available to the consumer for under $20, making it accessible to a vast number of people who currently cannot afford the expense of a mobile handset."

The group is also set to reveal the world's first phone to play films on a disc.

Last month Spice revealed plans to launch a pilot scheme in India which will allow mobile users to make free phone calls as long as they are prepared to listen to a short advertising jingle. The strategy is intended to break the stranglehold on the market enjoyed by Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Essar.

A year ago Vodafone bought a stake in Hutchison Essar for £5.7bn, giving it a 67 per cent stake. Vodafone's chairman, Sir John Bond, said then that India was "destined to become one of the largest and most important mobile markets in the world".

The People's Phone will be just one of several launches at this week's Barcelona conference.

Next-generation handsets and wireless technology are once again set to dominate the conference, which will be heavily scrutinised amid concerns of a global consumer slowdown.

Analysts at investment house Lazard said last week: "With the growing concern about the US consumer, we are looking for indications of whether this is affecting handset sales."