Grameenphone has sought permission from the telecom regulator to establish a subsidiary company for its network infrastructure such as towers, energy equipment and civil works, following the footsteps of Robi and Banglalink.
Banglalink made a similar application in December last year and is awaiting the verdict of the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission.
The telecom regulator two years ago allowed Robi to set up a similar subsidiary, edotco, which has about 9,000 towers in its books and is sharing with different mobile operators.
Grameenphone's subsidiary will be like edotco: an independent passive infrastructure provider for mobile and internet operators.
Given the BTRC's policy of encouraging infrastructure sharing, Grameenphone now wants to establish the subsidiary, according to the application sent last week.
Currently, the government and the telecom regulator are working to separate the mobile service and the tower operation businesses. They are planning to award two licences for tower operation for all the mobile operators.
If the two tower companies can operate properly, then the total number of towers will come down -- a development that will save valuable land, power and other operational expenses. Grameenphone also used this argument in its application.
The move would also allow other operators to take their services to the rural parts of the country, Grameenphone said.
All of Grameenphone's passive infrastructure will be transferred to the subsidiary, as well as the existing master agreements between Grameenphone and any other licensee, said the application signed by Mahmud Hossain, its chief corporate affairs officer. The lease agreement between Grameenphone and the relevant landlords for each tower will also be transferred to the new company.
The move will build in greater efficiency, maximise resource utilisation, minimise duplication as well as ensure even market competition in the country, Hossain said.
“It is our expectation that the regulator will give us the 'go ahead' to maintain an equitable market dynamic and a level-playing field, since a similar modality already exists in the market,” he added.
Currently, there are about 30,000 towers, of which Grameenphone owns more than 12,000. BTRC is now poring over Grameenphone's application, said one of its top officials.