Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) has revoked its decision to block mobile phone operators’ signals up to a kilometre from the country’s borders.
The authorities sent an email to all the mobile operators early yesterday in this regard and asked them to unblock the network in border areas as soon as possible.
Mobile carriers said they have started unblocking, but providing full network will take about a day as the configurations in all towers, some of which are in remote areas, need to be updated.
BTRC on Sunday evening had asked all mobile operators -- Grameenphone, Robi, Banglalink, and Teletalk -- to restrict their network up to a kilometre from the borders.
According to the email sent to the operators yesterday, by Md Sohel Rana, a deputy director of BTRC’s spectrum management division, they have now withdrawn the instruction completely.
“In this connection, please reinstate operations of the BTSs [Base Trans-Receiver Stations] near the Bangladesh-India border sites immediately,” the email read.
“As per the BTRC directive, we have already started reactivating the BTSs located along the border areas. The reactivation process will take a while to complete since a lot of BTSs are involved here. We thank the affected customers for being patient with us,” Shahed Alam, chief corporate and regulatory officer of Robi Axiata Ltd, told The Daily Star.
Due to the previous decision, about one crore subscribers in 32 districts, near the borders with India and Myanmar, were affected.
A BTRC official said they faced many complaints from different citizens and at the same time government high-ups expressed frustrations in this regard.
On Sunday, when the network-blocking decision was made, Telecom Minister Mustafa Jabbar told The Daily Star that this was not their decision and they just followed the instruction.
He, however, said the decision was made following a consensus of three to four ministries, and the foreign ministry was leading the efforts in this regard.
“The security of the state is the government’s first priority and that’s why it made this decision,” Jabbar said without elaborating.
Contacted yesterday evening, Jabbar said the government made the decisions banking on a request by intelligence agencies.
“But we have observed that about one and half crore customers would be affected by this decision and so we also contacted the Prime Minister’s office and revoked the decision.”
The telecom minister also discussed the issue with the PM’s ICT advisor, who asked for the customers’ sufferings to be taken into consideration.
Jabbar said that though the BTRC has asked the mobile operators to restrict network, no one blocked or restricted any tower’s signal.
BTRC’s spokesperson said they had asked for the networks to be blocked upon directions from the government and they have also reversed the decision as per government orders.
A senior executive of a carrier said that about 1,500 mobile towers were switched off and that also affected consumers who were a few kilometres inside the country from the borders.