The government has received proposals from half a dozen foreign companies which want to invest in Teletalk and fifth-generation (5G) service, Mustafa Jabbar, posts and telecommunications minister, said yesterday.
In a meeting with the Telecom Reporters’ Network Bangladesh (TRNB) at his office, Jabbar declined to reveal the names. He said that the companies were from Japan, China, South Korea, Russia, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
“One company has already sent us its business proposal with investment plan in Teletalk and we are considering it,” Jabbar said.
There are some other proposals where companies showed interest to invest in Bangladesh and get a licence for 5G service, he added.
Jabbar said they can’t ensure proper competition in the market as there was a huge gap between the investment in government-owned Teletalk and that in privately owned ones such as Grameenphone.
According to the minister, Grameenphone has so far invested about Tk 40,000 crore and Teletalk only Tk 3,600 crore.
“We have placed a proposal with the government to invest another Tk 3,200 crore in Teletalk and it will expand the operator’s coverage level to 80 percent of the geographical location, which is now about 30 percent only.”
In order to bring competitiveness into the market, there is no alternative to strengthening the market, he added.
Jabbar said there was also a proposal to establish submarine cable company in the private sector as well.
“I am flooded with so many investment proposals that I am already in a pressurised situation. We need to make decision on it.”
The telecom minister also acknowledged that because of the call rate revision, the expenditure for customers has increased slightly. He also said his initiative to reduce the cost of internet usage was still on.
“Cutting the internet usage cost has been my first priority but I cannot ensure it as there are multiple channels inside the system and everything is not in our hand.”
In August 2018, the government fixed the minimum call charge at Tk 0.45 per minute and with VAT and other taxes it rose to at least Tk 0.54.
However, companies like Grameenphone are charging on an average Tk 0.73, which was Tk 0.67 per minute before the rate was revised. Jabbar also blames the tax policy as one of the barriers.
He said his ministry was going to ensure free internet in 587 government schools and colleges. “Personally, I think internet should be free for educational institutions and that should be the students’ right.”
The telecom minister said the government has formulated a guideline to ensure the quality of service but unfortunately that has not been enacted still.
“As a customer, I am also annoyed with the mobile operators as I also get a huge number of call drops,” said Jabbar.
The telecom division is going to present a demonstration on 5G at the three-day Digital Bangladesh Fair, which will take place from January 16 to 18.
“We have so far established a fibre optic connected network across the country and by the middle of next year you will not find any union where there will be no fibre optical connectivity.”
Jabbar also said without fibre optical network, 5G would not be useable.