3G license in Bangladesh goes to Grameenphone, Robi Axiata, Airtel, Banglalink

Four telecom operators — Grameenphone, Robi Axiata, Airtel Bangladesh and Banglalink Digital Communications – have won 3G licenses in Bangladesh.

The country’s largest mobile operator Grameenphone secured 10 Mhz of spectrum for $210 million while the remaining three acquired 5 Mhz each at a price of $105 million, said Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC).

BTRC will receive $525 million for offering 3G spectrum to four telecom operators.

All these operators will be launching 3G services shortly.

3G Bangladesh

Bangladesh telecom market

Bangladesh is the ninth-largest market worldwide in terms of mobile subscribers in Q1 2013 with 62 million unique subscribers actively using 112 million mobile connections (SIM cards), according to Wireless Intelligence report.

Mobile market penetration based on subscribers stands at 40 percent, compared to 72 percent in Russia and 56 percent in Brazil.

Recently, market intelligence agency BMI said its medium-term outlook for Bangladesh’s telecom sector remains bright, given growth potential in the nation’s underserved mobile market.

The Q1 2013 result shows evidence of a strong subscriptions rebound after negative growth in Q412 due to government’s ban on unregistered prepaid SIMs. Internet penetration should increase in the medium term if government stays committed to internet infrastructure investment.

Mobile subscriptions rise 4.3 percent to 112.0 million in Q1 2013 from 107.3 million in Q4 2012 – after strong marketing campaigns by operators Grameenphone and Robi Axiata. Penetration is 72.5 percent as of Q1 2013.

3G potential

Based on International Telecommunication Union (ITU) data, number of internet users in Bangladesh increase to 9.6 million in 2012 from 7.6 million in 2011. Internet penetration remains at a low 0.34 percent.

Airtel, Banglalink, Grameenphone and Robi will be benefitted from 3G as they can improve revenue streams and customer experience. At present, they are offering data services solely on 2G-GSM networks.

Telecom regulator of Bangladesh has already allocated 10 MHz to state-owned Teletalk.

Considering the auction price in Bangladesh, the government did not receive good response from telecoms. In 2010, Indian mobile operators spent a total of $15 billion on 3G frequencies.

Telecom operators in Bangladesh are looking at improving its ARPU – currently less than $2 – after launching 3G. The market average blended ARPU fell to BDT159 in Q4 2012 (average of the top three operators) owing to the prevalence of prepaid subscriptions.

Baburajan K
editor@telecomlead.com