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Mobile operators' infrastructure sharing at stake

Abdullah Mamun A regulatory move is holding back mobile operators' infrastructure sharing business with other service providers. According to a decision of the regulator, the mobile companies will now have to share their network through a common network. Also, the mobile operators will not be allowed to do such business in the areas where the common network -Nationwide Telecommunications Transmission Network (NTTN) -- has coverage. Now two local companies -- fiber@home and Summit Communication -- have NTTN licences to provide services under the common network. But this network has a very limited reach. Now if the mobile companies or other service providers want to rent their services, they will have to rent it at first to the two NTTN licensees, who will then rent those out to other service providers. The move was taken unilaterally and will affect the business of the mobile operators, they said. Zia Ahmed, chairman of Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC), said the commission is amending its previous regulations to this effect. The BTRC move is aimed at encouraging local entrepreneurs, BTRC officials said. The two NTTN licensees have been responsible for laying underground fibre optic cable across the country to lease out their cable to other service providers since 2008. The NTTN operators could only develop their network in Dhaka, and fiber@home has developed some capacity outside Dhaka by taking rent of infrastructure from other mobile companies. On the other hand, the mobile operators have already developed countrywide fibre optic infrastructure investing more than $400 million. The mobile companies said, if the transmission infrastructure is used by a single company, their resources will be wasted. The telecom operators also said, as the infrastructure will be rentable to the NTTN operators only, their huge capacity will remain unused. Internet cost of the end users will also go up, as the NTTN licensees will take rent of the line at first, and then rent it out to other service providers, they said. Mahmud Hossain, chief corporate officer of Grameenphone, said the NTTN operators will take rent of the fibre optic cable from the mobile operators, and they will offer the service after making profit. It will increase the ultimate cost, he said. Abu Saeed Khan, secretary general of Association of Mobile Telecom Operators Bangladesh, said the current regulatory action will inevitably increase the cost of bandwidth in Bangladesh which is grossly detrimental to the fundamental spirit of 'Digital Bangladesh' vision of the government. The BTRC chairman said if the NTTN operators fail to provide the services, the mobile operators will be allowed to share their transmission network with other service providers. Arif Al Islam, chief executive officer of Summit Communication, said it is not possible to develop the countrywide infrastructure overnight. He said, when the third generation mobile technology will be launched in the country, a huge demand for bandwidth will be created, and a common infrastructure will be helpful then. In the long run, the current regulation will be useful for all, he said.

An official of fiber@home said they are developing their network fast and will be able to provide all types of services required by their clients. An internet service provider said they do not want to switch to the NTTN, as they fear this network will not be able to provide the services they need. "We will need interfaces in several points which the NTTN will not be able to give us due to a lack of capacity," said an official of the ISP, asking not to be named. "They (the NTTN) have limited services outside Dhaka. Even if we enter their network, we will have to invest further in infrastructure development," the official added.

Telecommunication expansion and Digital divide in Bangladesh

Posted by Kamrul Hasan on August 8, 2010 at 7:19 in Science journalism View Discussions Bangladesh is a country of more than 15 core people. There are 5.5 core users are now using mobile or PSTN phone for communication. This journey begins from the last 13 years. The overall tele-density is quiet satisfactory at present. There are six mobile operators and more than 13 PSTN operators are in Bangladesh market. They are taking vast expansion plan to cover up the whole country. Already the mobile operators covered the whole country with their GSM & CDMA frequency. At present the mobile operators coverage area is near about 99 % and their user penetration is near about 37 % of the total population of Bangladesh. On the other hand, there are only 4% population of Bangladesh are using Internet now. Out of these 4% only 1% are using Broadband Internet connection and rest of the 3% are using Mobile Internet connection which is very much slow and often unusable for the effective use and communication of Internet applications. At present, mobile operators are introducing GSM internet modem through out the country but they are offering only 0 kbps to 512 kbps internet speed. But due to optimum level of connectivity these modems are often offering unusable internet speed. On the other hand, broadband users are facing high bandwidth price. our government currently selling the bandwidth @ 18,000 BDT + 15% VAT per Mbps. So, it is also difficult to expand this broadband connection. While due to lack of proper infrastructural development in Bangladesh the broadband internet penetration is quiet low. There are so many ISPs (Internet Service Provider) in the country from the very beginning of the last decade. But due to high CAPEX and OPEX their business area did not expand in proper growth ratio. So, most of the ISPs are serving only their high paid corporate clients and a few home users. Also, there are so much shortage in Local (Bangla) content in internet applications. So, due to low rate of literacy most of the people do not know how they will use Internet and will apply these resources in their daily life. Even most of the internet users are using internet only to meet their mail purpose. But there are so many applications in internet which is able to meet up our daily life problems and prospects. We can improve our life styles, income, thinking, knowledge and all about our information need from internet. But we need to identify the exact way in which our low iterate people can improve their life and income from internet. So, we need so many Bangla content to meet these challenges. To cover up these limitations, all ready our government issued Two Wimax operator licenses for countrywide broadband internet service. Also, issued Two Nationwide Telecommunication Transmission Network (NTTN) service providers for building, operating and maintaining countrywide Optical Fiber based robust network to provide the nationwide access for all types of service operators. There are also 31 IP tele licenses in Bangladesh. All of the license holders who are giving services to the end users

(customers) will use these two common networks (NTTN) for the smooth operation of their services. It will help them to reduce CAPEX and OPEX and will give them the freedom to give services anywhere of Bangladesh at a very low cost and easy way. Now our government is taking initiatives to make a DIGITAL BANGLADESH by introducing Internet applications in all of the government's departments. But they have to come forward to make a level playing field among the licensees. There are some constraints to run smooth business operations for the NTTN service providers. Many of the mobile operators are doing all the business together. As a result, ISPs are loosing their customers and going down; IP tele will not be lucrative; NTTN are loosing their prime focused business due to doing the same business by Mobile Operators etc. So, in order to improve the situation, our Government should ensure the proper business environment for all the individual business firms, should separate Transmission business from Service business, Make level playing field for the smooth operation of all the individual business firms so that they all can survive well and expand their business areas in rural areas of Bangladesh. Now all of them is focusing only in the prime revenue earning areas like, Dhaka, Chittagong, Sylhet, Rajshahi, Khulna and other major cities. And such a way there increasing the DIGITAL DIVIDE between the RURAL and URBAN areas in Bangladesh.. We must need to overcome this situation but how we will make sure the equal growth of the country's DIGITAL applications?????