The mobile phone operator Grameenphone (GP) on Sunday formally began providing 3G services, initially to its employees and some selected customers, under a soft operation system.
According to sources from GP, the commercial launch of 3G is likely to be before Eid-ul-Azha, with the cities of Dhaka and Chittagong to be brought under the network by October.
Post and Telecommunications Minister Sahara Khatun inaugurated GP’s 3G service during a function in the capital’s GP House on Sunday.
The Norwegian Ambassador to Bangladesh Ragne Birte Lund, Telecommunication Secretary Md Abubakar Siddique, Acting Chairman of BTRC Abdus Samad, Grameenphone Board Chairman Sigve Brekke, Telenor Group CEO Jon Fredrik Baksaas and Grameenphone CEO Vivek Sood were also present on the occasion.
Sahara Khatun received a video call while formally inaugurating the service. GP has been on test operations for the last two weeks. As the regulator has not approved package approvals yet, the operator avoided mentioning any date for the commercial launch.
However, the officials termed Sunday’s launch as the beginning of rolling out the service nationwide.
Grameenphone CEO Vivek Sood said the operator, which is the market leader in Bangladesh, was expected to bring Dhaka and Chittagong cities under 3G network by October.
He added that the other divisional cities and Narayanganj and Gazipur cities would be provided with the service by the end of the year, while all 64 districts would be covered by March next year.
In Dhaka, the priority areas to launch the service include Uttara, Gulshan, Dhanmondi and Kalabagan.
Fredrik Baksaas told the Dhaka Tribune that GP was going to expand 3G network to at least 2,000 BTS by March 2014. It has a total of 12,000 BTS across the country.
In her speech, Sahara Khatun congratulated GP to bring the service promptly.
“Hopefully, GP can cover the whole country with 3G network within a short time.”
She hoped 3G will bring about a revolution in the country’s ICT sector which is fraught with a huge potential and will expedite the people’s economic progress.
Fredrik Baksaas said: “I know the expectation for 3G is very high in Bangladesh. And with 3G, Grameenphone is taking an important step in its mission to help the country move ahead by providing the opportunities of internet access for all Bangladeshis.”
Tanveer Mohammad, chief technology officer of GP, said they had already installed 3G networks in 25 BTS while equipment for other 250 BTS have reached.
According to him, by November they will be able to cover 70% areas of Dhaka and 50% of Chittagong.
GP acquired 10 MHz of 3G broadband spectrum at $210m in an auction held early this month.
The spectrum, which is a part of the 2100 MHz-band, will enable the roll-out of a nationwide network with enhanced capacity up to 3.9G and instant mobile internet access for all customers.
On Wednesday last, Banglalink launched 3G service while Robi stepped into it on Saturday last. The remaining announcement of Airtel is expected to be made soon.