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Hotmail, MSN Messenger get a boost in India

Microsoft and Mobile 365 sign up more providers to bring e-mail and IM to cell phone subscribers.

Microsoft is expanding the reach of its mobile e-mail and IM services in India.

The software giant's MSN division and messaging company Mobile 365 announced Tuesday that they've reached deals with five Indian mobile service providers.

Under the deals, subscribers will be able to use text messaging on their cell phones to receive and reply to e-mail sent to their Hotmail accounts. They will also be able to use the MSN Messenger service from their phones.

The partnership covers five mobile and fixed wireless operators--Reliance Infocomm, Tata Teleservices, Reliance GSM, Spice Punjab and Spice Karnataka--with a combined subscriber base of 23.5 million users. Microsoft and Mobile 365 are already working with three other mobile networks in India: Airtel, BPL and Hutch.

The MSN Messenger/Hotmail service via SMS is available to 70 percent of Indian mobile subscribers, and Microsoft and Mobile 365 expect to expand the service to cover 100 percent of the Indian mobile market very soon, according to MSN South Asia.

India is among the fastest-growing wireless markets, with about 53 million GSM-standard and 14 million CDMA-standard phone users. Citing figures from the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, MSN and Mobile 365 said the market is expected to grow to 200 million subscribers by 2008.

Like many U.S. and European tech companies, Microsoft has been expanding its presence in India. Earlier this month, the Redmond, Wash.-based company said it would invest $1.7 billion there over the next four years and hire 3,000 more workers to boost its software operations as well as research and development activities.

Reuters contributed to this report.