Banglalink to sell out its towers
Banglalink is ready to sell out its towers to a third party after the government introduces licensing for tower companies, said a top official of VimpelCom, the mobile operator's majority shareholder.
The company wants to concentrate on telecom services and that is why it will reduce pressures from other segments like tower management, said Jean-Yves Charlier, chief executive of VimpelCom, at a press meet at Sonargaon Hotel in Dhaka yesterday.
Banglalink, the third largest mobile operator in the country, has applied to the telecom regulator to establish a subsidiary company that will own and manage all of its 9,000 towers. After the government will award licences for tower companies, they will sell the subsidiary company off, added Charlier.
The government has already started a process to auction the licence for tower management business; it has formulated the guidelines as well.
The VimpelCom boss said they will invest more than $100 million in 2017 to improve their network, and if the government arranges spectrum auction, this value will increase manifold. The company has so far invested $2.4 billion in Banglalink in the last twelve years of operation.
When asked to comment on the company's profitability, Charlier said "that is a long-term issue", but the company has been doing well in the last three years.
On the issue of being listed on the stockmarket, he said they are a listed company globally, but if any regulation is placed in Bangladesh, they will comply with that, Charlier said.
In the first nine months of 2016, Banglalink's gross revenue was $469 million, witnessing around 4 percent year-on-year growth, according to VimpelCom's quarterly report.
Charlier is currently visiting Dhaka to attend meetings with officials from Banglalink and the government. He met with the telecom minister, and the telecom regulatory commission chairman yesterday; he is scheduled to meet the ICT minister and central bank governor today.
Bangladesh will be one step forward in achieving its digital dream if it can include its majority population in the financial digitisation process, and only mobile operators can provide this service right now, said Charlier.
"If the mobile operators are given the opportunity to provide financial services, I believe more than 120 million people will be able to get the financial benefits directly, which will bring a great revolution in the country and take Bangladesh one step forward to shape its digital dream."
More and more Bangladeshis connect to the internet with their smartphones, which opens up boundless possibilities, he added.
At the press meet, Banglalink CEO Erik Aas, Chief Corporate and Regulatory Affairs Officer Taimur Rahman and Head of Corporate Communications Asif Ahmed were also present.
Aas said they are ready to launch 4G services and for that, the government needs to arrange spectrum auction and spread fibre optic connectivity across Bangladesh; otherwise, service quality will not be satisfactory.
Banglalink is soon going to introduce a free messaging application named VEON, which the parent company has already launched in its different markets. The company is also actively preparing to launch e-commerce services by this year.
The telecom industry is shifting from voice to data, and financial activities also have to move on to a digital dimension as well, said Aas.
The operator is also going to introduce a new service through which customers can purchase products using their mobile balance, he added.
Charlier welcomes the merger of Robi and Airtel. "The merger will definitely bring changes in the mobile market dynamics and it will be a crucial part of our strategy in Bangladesh."
Banglalink is fully owned by Cairo-based Global Telecom Holding, where VimpelCom has a 51.7 percent stake.
Orascom entered Bangladesh in September 2004 when it purchased Sheba Telecom for $60 million. It later rebranded itself and launched its services under the Banglalink brand in February 2005.