Qubee is handing over 20,000 individual subscribers to its main competitor under a revenue sharing model as the wireless broadband service provider is seeking to reshape its business to survive the onslaught of high-speed mobile internet.
The second largest WiMax operator signed an agreement with market leader Banglalion Communications Ltd before Eid-ul-Fitr, and the customer handover procedure will be completed by July 15, said a top official of Qubee.
Under the agreement, Qubee will receive 30 percent of the revenue its customers will generate for Banglalion in the first of its kind arrangement in Bangladesh's telecom business, according to industry people.
“We are focusing more on enterprise business and are upgrading our network to long-term evolution (LTE) technology. That's why we are making this arrangement,” said Proteek Kundu, chief commercial officer of Augere Wireless Broadband Bangladesh Ltd, the owning company of Qubee.
Kundu said WiMax technology is becoming obsolete globally and no vendors produce any equipment that support wireless broadband service.
“LTE is a future technology, so we are going to introduce it.”
The telecom regulator, however, has no idea about the latest development related to Qubee, said Md Jahurul Haque, acting chairman of the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC).
“We will have to go through the laws to see whether it can hand over customers or not,” he said.
Qubee has informed its customers through letters and requested them to experience similar kind of services under Banglalion.
“We would like to inform you that the team from BCL (Banglalion) will reach out to you to ensure that either your old modem works fine with its network or you get a new modem from Banglalion that works,” reads the letter signed by Kundu.
Qubee also cut its workforce by half by way of terminating about 90 people last month, according to a source at the operator.
As part of the plan to remodel its business, Qubee has decided to close down its business-to-customer segment and focus mostly on business-to-business part, said the official, asking not to be named.
Qubee has about 1,000 corporate customers.
“It's a temporary arrangement and we will invite our customers back after we rebuild the network,” Kundu added.
However, officials said the company is trying to squeeze its business in some parts of the country.
Qubee has about 350 base stations in the 25 districts it is allowed by the BTRC to offer the service and is now trying to bring it down to 90.
It has shifted its head office from expensive Gulshan to low-cost Mirpur area to cut costs.
Qubee Chief Executive Officer Faisal Hyder, however, wasn't in agreement with the company's shift to the new business model and has stepped down recently.
Augere was awarded the licence in 2008 under an open auction and Qubee started the service in October 2009. The tenure of the 15-year licence will expire in 2023.
Qubee became one of the vibrant wireless broadband operators in Bangladesh within a few years of its launch and drew 1.5 lakh customers.
Industry people said Wimax operators started to lose appeal soon after the launch of 3G mobile internet in the country in 2013, and Qubee also felt the heat of it.