The Daily Star 28.11.2016
Technology neutrality and quality handsets are crucial for affordable 4G services, telecom experts have said at the LTE Summit in Dhaka. A market expert has said he hopes the government will come up with policies with long-term vision and deregulation of the industry for 4G services. Banglalink’s chief corporate affairs officer Taimur Rahman has said coordinated government efforts are needed for policy issues, especially in infrastructure sharing.
Technology neutrality and quality handsets are crucial for affordable 4G services, telecom experts said at the daylong LTE Summit in Dhaka yesterday. The openness of government policies is also a key aspect for the mobile phone companies in providing 4G or long-term evolution (LTE) services, which is a data connection technology faster than the existing 3G services. Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission organised the summit, in partnership with the Association of Mobile Telecom Operators of Bangladesh at Pac Pacific Sonargaon Hotel. The government plans to introduce 4G services next year and by 2021, there will be 12 million 4G data users in Bangladesh, said Joe Grand, senior consultant from Ericsson’s South East Asia and Oceania region, quoting GSMA intelligence. At that time, 3G connections will stand at 94 million and the rest 66 million will be 2G users, he said. Highlighting LTE, market leader Grameenphone said only 4 percent of its network is using 4G-enabled handsets. “It’s important that people have quality handsets to enjoy quality services. And affordability largely depends on how much the government opens up on infrastructure and spectrum,” said Grameenphone Chief Executive Officer Petter-B Furberg. Although foreign investors are keen on investing more, the ground reality is that it is very difficult here, said Robi CEO Mahtab Uddin Ahmed. “The operators are dying, they are merging with each other to sustain. Except for one operator, all others are still struggling after so many years. It is because we provide the lowest pricing in service.” He said the tax authorities are coming down heavily on the operators and mostly looking for short-term gains. “I hope the government will come up with policies with long-term vision and deregulation of the industry for 4G services.” Banglalink Chief Corporate Affairs Officer Taimur Rahman said coordinated government efforts are needed for policy issues, especially in infrastructure-sharing. BTRC Director General of Systems and Services Division Emdad ul Bari said affordability is a big question in data, both for service and handset pricing. He said cost reduction is important and infrastructure sharing is the key here. In another panel session, Md Nasim Parvez, director general of Spectrum Management Division at BTRC, said the policy for 4G services should consider the interest of consumers and the government as well as operators’ sustainability. The data use has remained on the high-growth path since December 2013: data use per user per month was 46 MB then, which increased to 446 MB in October this year, he said. Johan Frisell, Swedish ambassador to Bangladesh, said the rapid growth of telecom in Bangladesh is praiseworthy and now, it is time to roll out LTE services. “If you charge too much, you may get short-term benefits. But ultimately, it would have a negative impact on the industry,” said Frisell. This is the first LTE summit in the country. BTRC’s acting Chairman Md Ahsan Habib Khan also spoke and AMTOB General Secretary TIM Nurul Kabir moderated the sessions.