Bangladesh may allow all telecoms operators to use the railway’s fiber optic network. In 2014, the telecoms regulator awarded the National Telecommunication Transmission Network license to Bangladesh Railway, allowing it to do business in the sector. There are currently 54,228 km of fiber optic cable, where the NTTN operators have a major share. Among the mobile phone operators, Banglalink has 3,001 km of fiber optic cable.
The government has taken an initiative to allow all telecom operators to use the railway’s fibre optic network, which Grameenphone has exclusively been using for 20 years. Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission also asked Bangladesh Railway and Grameenphone to amend an agreement in this regard. A committee has already been formed with members of both the railway and Grameenphone to analyse the deal, under which the operator is using 1,600 kilometres of the fibre optic network, BTRC officials said. In 1997, Grameenphone, owned by Norwegian company Telenor, signed an agreement with the then railway division to use, maintain and run the business operation of their fibre optic cable, after winning an international bid. The telecom division recently requested the railway ministry to take action and amend the two-decade-old agreement, as the other operators are suffering from poor network quality. State Minister for Telecom Tarana Halim sent a letter to Railway Minister Mujibul Haque on November 2, saying that they expect a non-biased policy to use the cable and digitise the country. “It creates a challenge for others in using public infrastructure as there is a deal with a mobile phone operator, which is also depriving the railway from a fair share or revenue,” reads the letter. The railway department wrote back to BTRC, saying that it was not an ordinary agreement and it will take time to amend the deal, in the letter signed by Md Amzad Hossain, director general of the railway department. Md Feroz Salah Uddin, secretary of the railway ministry, said there is no scope to cancel the deal. The ministry is trying to create a situation where others can also use the infrastructure, he said. After ten years of the agreement, Grameenphone changed the entire 1,600 kilometres of the fibre optic cable, as the previous cable’s lifetime had ended. Grameenphone also pays the salaries of 200 staff members of the railway who look after the cable. The operator also gave 400 mobile phones to the railway free of charge. According to the deal, Grameenphone can lease out the unused cable and of its revenue, the railway will get 30 percent. The railway recently called an open tender to lease out its additional 400 kilometre fibre optic network that Grameenphone is not using. In 1989, the railway authority, under a modernisation project, installed optical fibre cables in 300 stations with financial assistance from the Norwegian government. Grameenphone and the railway would soon submit a proposal to BTRC, and then the regulator will ask the parties to amend clauses of the agreement that are in conflict with the related guidelines, said a senior official. After the amendments are complete, the unused portion of the leased fibre optic network will be opened to other telecom operators, said a BTRC official. In 2014, the telecom regulator awarded the National Telecommunication Transmission Network licence to Bangladesh Railway that allows it to do business in the sector. According to BTRC, there are currently 54,228 kilometres of fibre optic cable, where the NTTN operators have a major share. Summit Communication has 20,670km, Fibre@Home 15,468km, BTCL 4,935km, Power Grid Company of Bangladesh 4,402km and railway 2,105km. Among the mobile phone operators, Banglalink has 3,001km, Grameenphone has 2,490km (including the railway’s leased network) and the other operators have 1,157km of fibre optic cables.