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Calcutta was the first city in India to launch mobile phone service on July 31, 1995. Calcutta has four mobile phone companies in operation. Three of these use GSM (standard in most parts of the world): Airtel (a partner for providers from nearly 90 countries. Click here to see if your provider is a partner), CellOne and Hutch (a partner for providers from nearly 90 countries as well. Click here to see if your provider is a partner). The fourth one, Reliance IndiaMobile uses CDMA (standard in North America). Also, if you happen to be traveling from the United States and have a Verizon Wireless phone, you may use their International Traveler program to rent a GSM phone before you leave for Calcutta. Given the extensive roaming arrangements and the choice of technologies, no matter where you are coming from, your phone should work in Calcutta as long as you are a customer of a provider that has a roaming partnership with one of these companies. People in Calcutta use SMS very extensively.


For those of us who would rather use the good old wired service, Calcutta Telephones, a division of Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (a government-owned company that enjoyed a monopoly status all over India until very recently) provides a very reliable service, quite unlike the reputation of Calcutta’s telephones in the 1980s, when the network had virtually collapsed. Today, Calcutta’s telephone network is one of the best in the country and is also rapidly growing. Also, private companies like Reliance Telecom also provide wired telephone service in Calcutta now. Calcutta had a large number of coin-operated public phone booths but they have been rendered defunct due to a large variety of 1 Rupee coins that were circulated in quick succession in the last two decades or so (most phones work with only one kind of coins), but public phone users take heart. In the 1990s, a vast network of manned phone booths (displaying the sign STD/ISD, which stands for Subscriber Trunk Dialing/International Subscriber Dialing) have sprung up all over Calcutta (and the rest of India), which can be found almost everywhere and, of course, always make change! Most of them also allow collect and calling card calls through major networks around the world. The following is a list of access numbers for some of the networks:








British Telecom









Internet access is readily available at Internet cafes around the city and also at some of the leading bookstores and coffee bars. If you would rather get a temporary internet connection while in Calcutta, there are several Internet service providers that provide both dial-up and high speed access (DSL and cable availability subject to geographical location, like anywhere else in the world, but most major hotels have access). The following is a list of some of the ISPs in Calcutta:

Caltiger, Calcutta-based free ISP.


BSNL, offers both dial-up and DSL access in Calcutta.

Sify (Satyam Infoway).


© Focus Calcutta Initiative, Inc. Contents may be used for non-commercial purposes without malicious intent. Last modified December 10, 2003