Company News

UPDATE 1-Aircel to sell INQ mobiles in India

* India’s Aircel to sell two INQ Mobile models

* Firms tapping mobile social networking boom

* INQ enters first major market outside Hutchison group

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By Devidutta Tripathy and Tarmo Virki

NEW DELHI/HELSINKI, March 16 (Reuters) - India’s Aircel will sell the two latest handset models of British phone maker INQ Mobile as they try to tap surging demand for mobile social networking in the fastest growing major mobile market.

The deal is a milestone for INQ Mobile, a unit of Hong Kong's Hutchison Whampoa 0013.HK, which so far has sold its phones mostly through Hutchison's operators in different countries.

The INQ Mini 3G and the INQ Chat 3G will be available later this week, the companies said.

INQ is benefiting from its early move to make cheaper phones for connecting to social networks and the Internet in general -- a move large handset makers such as Nokia Oyj NOK1V.HE and Motorola Inc MOT.N are only now following.

INQ models integrate key features of Facebook and other social networking sites into the phone’s address book, removing the need to separately log on to the service.

The INQ Mini 3G is the first mass-market phone with an Internet-based Twitter client. The phone will use Internet connections for sending the 140-character messages, called Tweets.

User numbers of mobile Facebook grew more than five-fold in India last year, with the country's top social networking site Orkut GOOG.O seeing almost three-fold growth, according to Opera Software OPERA.OL, maker of the most used mobile browser in India. (Reporting by Devidutta Tripathy and Tarmo Virki; Editing by David Holmes)