The Internet Service Providers Association Bangladesh (ISPAB) is seeking fifth-generation licence to provide low-cost service to users as the government plans to introduce the superfast cellular network technology within two years.
The association has sent a letter to the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) and asked it to consider their application as a special case and put an option in the licensing guideline for them.
“We have shared our proposals with the guideline formulation committee of the commission and requested it to ensure a place for us,” MA Hakim, president of the ISPAB, told The Daily Star on Wednesday.
5G is the fifth-generation of mobile internet connectivity. It promises much faster data download and upload speeds, wider coverage and more stable connections.
The association also plans to establish a few hundred base stations within their existing network topology.
Internet service providers have huge opportunity to play in this industry as 5G is designed to create special benefit to businesses and industries, Hakim said.
According to the ISPAB’s plan, they wouldn’t seek the mobility; rather they will offer the service as a fixed player through broadband connectivity and users also can use it through Wi-Fi.
A member of the 5G guideline formulation committee of the commission said they are considering the proposal of the ISPAB as a priority as they are local entrepreneurs. However, the final decision will come from the government.
Hakim said 5G would require huge investment and one or two ISPs would not be able to make the investment single-handedly.
Members of the ISPAB will form a consortium and plan to run the business across the country.
“If we get the licence, our 5G business will be viable,” Hakim said.
If the association is awarded the licence, the mass people will get the service easily and at lower cost. They will also ensure the redundancy to critical services and infrastructures as well, according to the association’s letter. According to Hakim, the government should fix a special spectrum band at a cheaper price in order to offer low-cost services.
“If we get the licence, it will create huge business scope for mobile phone operators and there will not be any conflict with them,” Hakim said.
BTRC Chairman Md Jahurul Haque said if the technical evaluation committee thinks that ISPABs can run the service efficiently, the commission would have no problem in awarding the licence to them.
The guideline will be ready by the first quarter of 2020 and the commission will allocate the licences to mobile phone operators by the fourth quarter, said a senior official of the regulator and also a member of the committee.
According to the draft guideline, the BTRC plans to roll out 5G service by 2021 and cover the entire country (up to upazila level, growth centres and railway stations) by 2026.
The BTRC team is considering to introduce 5G in 2.6 and 3.5 Gigahertz band spectrums. In July last year, the government tested 5G, becoming the first country to do so in South Asia.
Haque said in the 5G era, machines would communicate with machines and people would be behind them. The use of artificial intelligence (AI) has already started in Bangladesh and 5G will help run AI, Internet of Things and robotics easily to boost productivity.
The government introduced 4G in 2018 and 3G in 2013. Currently, there are about six crore 3G users and about two and half crore 4G users in the country.
The ISPAB has applied for a nationwide telecommunication transmission network licence to provide fibre optic cable connection to telecom operators. The BTRC has assessed the proposal.