Telcos getting ready to launch 4G services
Mobile operators are taking preparations so that they can roll out 4G data services as soon as they get a go-ahead from the regulator.
Top three mobile operators -- Grameenphone, Robi and Banglalink -- tested their 4G networks with one of their technology partners a few months ago and found 50 Mbps to 100 Mbps of upload and download speed, which is much higher than that in existing 3G services.
Another technology vendor is currently testing different methods of spectrum use for 4G services, working alongside the mobile operators and Bangladesh Telecommuni-cation Regulatory Commission.
Robi has started to make all their SIM cards 4G-enabled; it plans to launch the service across the country as soon as it receives the 4G licence.
Banglalink has also sought permission from BTRC to make its SIMs 4G-enabled.
Grameenphone declared last year that they are ready to roll out the fourth generation of services. It established about 11,000 3G-enabled sites and all those can provide 4G services as well, said an official.
Although the market players have been taking preparations since last year, the work gained momentum after a sudden move from the BTRC. The regulator is formulating the guidelines on awarding the 4G licences and will arrange an auction for this service.
The concerned departments are working on it and the BTRC can present a guideline in the second week of March, said Shahjahan Mahmood, chairman of the regulatory body.
All existing 3G licence-holders will be eligible to receive the licence, said the BTRC boss.
At a meeting at the telecom division recently, Prime Minister's ICT Affairs Adviser Sajeeb Wazed Joy directed the officials of the BTRC and telecom division to introduce 4G services as soon as possible.
On the initiative, Grameen-phone said it is yet to receive any official directive from the regulator. "However, in the interest of the quality of services, we would hope that technology neutrality will be considered as well," said Mahmud Hossain, chief corporate affairs officer at Grameenphone.
Erik Aas, chief executive of Banglalink, said 4G is an integral part of their digital transformation promise and they are welcoming the regulator's initial decision on spectrum neutrality. "For that to happen, we have requested the regulator to ensure that spectrum is made available."
Banglalink has requested the regulator to allow it to sell towers, which will help them to further invest in spectrum and network expansion in Bangladesh, Aas said.
"It is to be noted that one of our technology partners has already successfully tested 4G in our network," he added.
In the mean time, Robi has launched a campaign on its social media platform to convert all of its SIM cards into 4G-enabled ones. Users will be charged Tk 100 to convert each SIM.
Robi is interested in introducing the service but the whole ecosystem is not yet ready as optical fibre connectivity is a main part of this service, and there is a huge gap in that connectivity, said a top official.
In the auction for 3G spectrum in 2013, the BTRC sold each megahertz of spectrum for $21 million, and for 4G services, the floor price may be around $25 million for each megahertz of spectrum, said BTRC officials.
There are around 6.63 crore mobile internet users in Bangladesh, of whom 3 crore use 3G services.