Michael Kuehner, CEO & MD of Robi Axiata talks about unique opportunities in the Bangladesh telecom market, and how following its multi-technology approach will benefit India, when it rolls out 4G next year.
How Robi Axiata stays ahead of the race in Bangladesh and what unique services it offers for its Bangla subscribers?
Price leadership and innovative product and services keep Robi Axiata clearly ahead of other operators.
Robi Axiata has been consistent in its green efforts for reducing carbon emissions since the past year. What are your green initiatives that other operators can deploy to green their networks?
Efforts for energy efficiency and environmental care are being made at different levels to reduce carbon emission by 30 percent. This was mainly done through introducing new technologies, that is, Voltage & Temperature Monitoring system to reduce use of generator, Intelligent Ventilation System to replace A/C, and modernization of BTS with lesser power consumption.
While most emerging nations are struggling to cash in on 3G deployments, Bangladesh is running a 4G WiMax network. What are the benefits of rolling out 4G WiMax and how it is doing in the country?
Robi believes that a multi-technology approach is the most attractive and viable way for operators to grow their markets. In a market like Bangladesh, people’s affordability to pay for their services is one of the most critical issues standing in the ways in terms of 3G or 4G WiMax which is of a high cost. Bangladesh has two WiMax players, i.e. Banglalion and Augere. However, their services are limited to urban areas only.
Mobile operators here have a combined subscriber base of 75 million subscribers, a readily available infrastructure, and acquisition facilities to upgrade their network coverage to access mobility and strong brand image. However, if mobile operators were given WiMax, the situation would have been different in Bangladesh and could have seen a faster internet growth providing high speed and affordability service for the people in both urban and rural areas.
India is debating on the question of whether to roll out TD-LTE or WiMax next year. Looking at this market, which of these technologies would be ideal for the country and why?
Robi believes that a multi-technology approach is the most attractive and viable way for operators to grow their markets and grow within their markets. Broadband will remain a key growth area that will be addressed by multiple wireless technologies. Operators are in an excellent position to take advantage of the current state of the industry to establish 4G services in India while enjoying a return on their investment. TD-LTE is emerging as new technology that has considerable thrust in a couple of key areas.
A major driver for operators when selecting a wireless broadband technology will be spectrum availability and the cost of acquiring spectrum. TD-LTE allows for a peak download speed of 100Mbps on mobile phones, as compared with 20 Mbps for 3G and 40 Mbps for WiMax. In addition to speed, TD-LTE’s main advantage over WiMax is that it is part of the popular GSM technology and can allow backward compatibility with both 2G and 3G networks.
However, TD-LTE technology is new and has not been mass produced. It has not gone through the maturity curve and would definitely be more expensive, were the LTE devices compared to WiMax dongles, by at least five to seven times. Since 3G has been recently auctioned in 2010 and has not fully matured, Robi reckons that it may not be the right time to introduce WiMax. However, India can leapfrog to TD-LTE in 2 to 3 years time.
What are some VAS services that have been most useful and popular in the Bangladesh market on the 3G and 4G networks? Which of them failed to work?
In Bangladesh currently, more than 10 million people are using internet regularly and with vigorous attempt of the government to make more people tech savvy to achieve the vision of Digital Bangladesh, the government intends to auction 3G by 2012 and 4G in the near future.
What is Robi’s future strategy, in terms of network deployment and services for the Bangladesh market in the next six months to one year?
The government plans to transform Bangladesh into a digital country by 2021, and is gaining traction to implement seven projects. These seven projects will focus on rolling out next-generation technologies such as broadband wireless and fibre optic cable networks in order to improve Bangladesh’s inadequate broadband infrastructure. The key objective is to lower operating costs and provide affordable broadband services. Modernization of networks is currently in progress to support the government objectives of NGN, and Robi’s strategy in the next six months to one year is to continue being the Peoples Champion” in terms of price leadership, best network quality, wider coverage, innovative products and services and excellent customer service.
By Beryl M