Jul 31, 2010

Country has now 59.98 million mobile customers

The country's mobile phone operators added 13.29 million new customers in one year till June, raising the total number of users to 59.98 millions.

According to Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC), there were 46.69 million customers of six mobile phone vendors till June last year. But the number reached 59.98 millions in June this year. 

Of the six operators, the sources said, Grameenphone (GP) maintained its solo lead in terms of customer acquisition by adding 5.30 million subscribers in last one year. The number of GP users is now 26.46 millions which was 21.16 millions till June last year.

Egyptian Orascom Telecom's Banglalink retained the second spot adding 5.06 million clients in the last one year. The number of Banglalink users reached 16.10 millions till June which was 11.04 millions in June last year.

Robi, formerly known as AKTEL, owned by Axiata (Bangladesh) Ltd, remained in the third position with 11.10 million customers. It added 2.25 million subscribers in last one year raising the total number of its customers to 11.10 millions.

The market's new entrant Warid Telecom grabbed the number four position adding .59 million customers in the last one year. The number of customers of Warid Telecom, the Emirates telecom vendor which was launched in 2008, reached 3.17 millions in June this year. The number was 2.58 millions till June last year.

Citycell, the country's first and only CDMA operator and a joint venture between Pacific Bangladesh Telecom Limited and Singapore Telecommunication, remained in the fifth spot with 1.99 million customers. The Citycell added only .03 million subscribers in the last one year.

The state-run TeleTalk now remained at bottom place with 1.16 million customers. It roped in .06 million subscribers in last one year. 

An official of the BTRC told BSS today that the number of mobile customers is increasing rapidly in the country due to reduction in call charges and SIM prices.

Jun 23, 2010

Operators mull court move against telecom law

Six mobile operators plan to seek judicial intervention as the last resort to preventing the upcoming telecom law, which they say will create a setback for the industry.

However, the top brasses of these operators said they hope the government will not pass the law that is 'unfriendly' to the growing telecom and ICT sector, as it promised a digital Bangladesh.

"We may seek court's intervention, if parliament passes the bill,” Oddvar Hesjedal, chief executive officer of Grameenphone, told a press conference at Dhaka Westin hotel in the capital yesterday. 

Ahmed Abou Doma, CEO of Banglalink, Michael Kuehnar, CEO of Robi, Chris Tobit, CEO of Warid Telecom, Mehboob Chowdhury, CEO of Citycell and and Mujibur Rahman, managing director of the state-owned TeleTalk, were present.

The press meet was organised by the Association of Mobile Telecom Operators in Bangladesh to react to taxes on the telecom industry and the bill that proposed amendments to the Bangladesh Telecommuni-cation Act 2010.

The bill was placed in parliament on June 13 and later sent to the parliamentary standing committee on posts and telecommunication ministry for further scrutiny.

The caretaker government through an ordinance introduced the tough law for the sector in December 2008. Subsequently, the elected government did not ratify the law in parliament with an objective to make it more industry- friendly in line with the idea of a digital Bangladesh.

However, it is a matter of worry for the operators that the bill has kept intact almost everything proposed by the then interim government, according to Zakiul Islam, the operators' association president. Islam presented a keynote paper at the press meet.

He pointed out that the bill had left no room for any appeal against any regulatory decision by any operator. The draft law allows law enforcers to arrest any official of the telecom industry without a warrant.

An individual could face imprisonment of up to five years, or a maximum fine of Tk 300 crore or both for "activities against national harmony, public security and friendly relations with neighbouring countries" through the use of telecom or radio apparatus, according to the bill.

It also envisages supreme power for the telecom ministry, which could do anything it likes to rein in the sector, instead of the existing independent body – Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission.

When his attention was drawn to the matter, the TeleTalk managing director said, "As an operator, we also move together with other operators against the law. It's a question of ensuring a level playing field."

The law is nothing but putting aside the growing investment of Bangladesh's telecom sector, said Ahmed Abou Doma.

The customer base of Bangladesh's six mobile operators reached more than 58 million as of May 2010. The mobile penetration rate is 35 percent.

The Grameenphone chief said it would be perfect if the government follows the Telecom Act 2001.
"We don't know what will happen in the future," he said.

However Warid CEO Chris Tobit is a bit optimistic. "We believe that the bill will not be passed by parliament.”

Source: The Daily Star:

May 26, 2010

GP unveils new package for rural people

Grameenphone Ltd yesterday launched a new package in an effort to connect rural customers to its network at affordable costs.

The package -- Baadhon -- will be available for Tk 1,499. The connection will include a handset, and customers will also get free talk time worth Tk 120 and a welcome tune on activation.

The handset -- enabled with both Bangla and English languages -- will also be available without a connection for Tk 1,350.

Source: The Daily Star

Apr 5, 2010

Question over move to cut BTRC's power

The government's move to empower the telecoms ministry has raised a string of questions, as experts say such a shift in power will clip the regulator's authority.The ministry is apparently unaware of many complexities in the industry, they said. The cabinet approved amendments to Bangladesh Telecommunication (Amendment) Act 2010 and International Long Distance Telecommunications Services (ILDTS) Policy 2010 last week.

Telecom ministry officials said if the amendments get through parliament, the ministry will have the authority to issue and renew licences, approve services and fix the telecom operators' proposed tariff for the market.
The move to give the ministry more clout comes at a time when the country is poised for a leap in the booming information and communication technology sector.

There are a lot of ICT activities around and many more to come. Worldwide interoperability for microwave access, international gateway, international connection exchange, international internet gateway and voice over internet protocol are already in place, and third generation technology is ready for a debut.
And experts have questioned the ministry's ability to handle all these. 

"The telecoms ministry will inherit hundreds of licences and frequencies that the regulator has granted by far. The second generation (2G) mobile licences are due for renewal and the issuance of third generation (3G) mobile licences is overdue. But merely signing and stamping a paper doesn't make the licences effective," said Abu Saeed Khan, senior policy fellow of LIRNEasia, a regional ICT policy and regulation think-tank.

"Appropriate radio frequencies are to be assigned simultaneously. The ministry is naturally clueless about such complexity," Khan added.

The Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) was established in 2001 and the independent commission started its function as the regulator in 2002 and issues all types of telecoms and ICT-related licences.

The commission is also responsible for monitoring the activities of the telecoms operators and guides them to follow the telecoms rules.

The telecoms ministry officials said BTRC will process the licensing activities and the ministry will give the final approval to the operators -- in line with the amended laws and policies. Officials close to the matter said the ministry did not consult the BTRC about the amendments.

All telecoms operators now need to have BTRC approval for their tariff plan renewals for the market, but the ministry will handle the issue if the amendments come into effect.

Industry insiders questioned how the telecom ministry will handle the licence and tariff matters, which are complicated in the highly competitive market.

"The ministry's lack of knowledge on retail pricing will delay the tariff approval of all telecoms and ICT services. As a result, the tariff war will be diminished and consumers will be deprived of benefits from fierce competition. It will hamper the new as well as the incumbent smaller operators' business," said Khan.

The ministry officials sit on the boards of state-owned mobile phone, fixed phone and international gateway, he said, adding that the ministry's neutrality as a regulator will remain questionable. "It will make the investors shy." 

A senior official of a telecom operator said: "There are several complaints about BTRC's role as a regulator. But globally, operators feel free to talk to a regulator than a government top body, such as the ministry."

He said the government should further strengthen the BTRC, as it already has a good set-up to regulate the market.

BTRC Chairman Zia Ahmed said: "We are not yet aware of the amendments. But we believe the government motive is good."

"We have no idea about the changes. But we hope everything will happen in a transparent way," said Zakiul Islam, president of Association of Mobile Telecom Operators of Bangladesh.

Telecoms Secretary Sunil Kanti Bose, however, said: "It's not the right time to discuss the details of the amendments. Several steps need to be taken to shape the amendments." 

Apr 3, 2010

BTCL to provide phone, TV, internet services thru’ single optical wire

Bangladesh Telecommunication Company Limited (BTCL) will provide telephone, television and high-speed internet connections through a single line to the city dwellers within one year, reports BSS

Three international telecommunication giants-Erickson, ZTE and Hu Yi- have already participated in a tender on the project floated recently, BTCL Managing Director S M Khabiruzzaman told the news agency Tuesday.

He said under the project an ultra modern NGN exchange would be set up to make 1,71,000 new connections through optical fibres in the capital city to provide quality telephone and high speed internet service as well as cable network for the television to its subscribers.

“Optical fibre will be set up in all roads and lanes of the city by dividing the capital into 188 factions at an approximate cost of Tk 1.97 billion (197 crore),” he said.

The BTCL chief said it might take one month to issue the work order to the firm whose bid would be the lowest. “After issuing the work order, all the telephone connections would be made within a year,” he said.
He also said that the initiative of setting up optical fibres in all areas of the Dhaka city was taken as part of the government’s programme of building digital Bangladesh.

Mar 28, 2010

Aktel becomes Robi Bangladesh

Aktel becomes Robi Bangladesh on 28th March, 2010. Visit Robi Bangladesh for more info.

Mar 25, 2010

Warid signs deals with BTCL, Teletalk to share infrastructure

Warid Telecom has signed separate deals with Bangladesh Telecommuni-cations Company Ltd (BTCL) and Teletalk to share infrastructure among each other.
The operators will share BTS, transmission equipment, transmission bandwidth, space, towers, poles, power, generator and optical fibre lines, Warid said in a statement yesterday.
The deals are the first among a private telecom operator and two state-owned companies.
Indian telecom giant Bharti Airtel has recently acquired a 70 percent stake in Warid.
Chris Tobit, chief executive officer and managing director of Warid, SM Khabiruzzaman, managing director of BTCL, and Md Mujibur Rahman, managing director of Teletalk, signed memoranda of understanding at a ceremony at Sonargaon Hotel.
Sunil Kanti Bose, posts and telecommunications secretary, who attended the programme, said: “Infrastructure sharing should be an obligation for all telecom operators."
“These agreements will give us leverage in taking mobile telephony into rural areas and expand our services to the deepest areas of Bangladesh. This initiative will reduce costs and pass on the benefits to our customers by giving them greater value for money,” Tobit said.