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Dhaka Tribune

Inadequate network towers tell on mobile service quality

The total number of mobile phone subscribers was 15.75 crore in January this year, which increased to 16.48 crore by the end of November

Update : 26 Dec 2019, 09:29 PM

An ongoing dispute between the four mobile phone service providers and tower companies has put building of new network tower on hold, leading to deterioration in mobile phone services of the these companies.

Four mobile phone service providers of the country managed to bag 73 lakh new subscribers from January to November of this year. In this period, their internet service users also increased by 77 lakh. 

But during the period they could build only two network towers to serve their new clients, which brought down the standard of their service. 

According to Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) data, the total number of mobile phone subscribers was 15.75 crore in January this year, which increased to 16.48 crore by the end of November.

Within the same period, the total number of mobile internet users increased to 9.33 crore by the end of November from 8.56 crore in January.

According to the mobile phone subscribers, in recent times there has been serious quality deterioration in mobile phone services provided by Grameenphone, Robi, Banglalink, and state-run Teletalk.

As per the latest BTRC regulations, mobile operators cannot build new towers and are handing over their existing towers to tower companies.

According to BTRC data, the stand-off between the mobile phone operators and the tower companies on the issue of tower sharing has put construction of around 3,000 new network towers across the country on hold. 

Since November of last year only two network towers have been built in the country — one in Jatiya Sangsad Bhaban area in the city and the other in Khaliajuri in Netrakona. 

“Since the Tower Companies are yet to be operational, the mobile network operators have not been able to expand their network. This has resulted in the deterioration of overall service quality of the operators,” Secretary General at the Association of Mobile Telecom Operators of Bangladesh Brig Gen S M Farhad (Retd.) told Dhaka Tribune.

“2019 should be considered a very disappointing and frustrating year for the telecom sector. Numerous issues resulted in disputes among the key stakeholders within the industry; only a few of these disputes have been settled. Despite adding more than 7 million voice and 8 million data subscribers in the first 10 months of the year, the industry's health has deteriorated and is now vulnerable,” he said.

A senior BTRC official said GP and Robi were the two largest operators with around 80% market share combined. So, if the audit dispute was not resolved, an agreement between them and the tower companies would not make any difference.

Abdullah Muntasir, a private service holder using Robi said: ‘Call drop has now become a regular occurrence. I get three to four call drops in every 10 calls.”

Whatever problems the mobile companies were having with the government was their headache, and the subscribers should not be subject to suffering, he added.

Telecom Minister Mustafa Jabbar told Dhaka Tribune that in recent times the quality of mobile telephony services  declined as the mobile operators failed to forecast their growth properly.

“I myself experience about eight call drops as I call from my mobile on my way to office from my Dhanmondi residence,” he said.

“At some points in the past, GP had a great network that attracted a large number of customers. However, as they grew they eventually stopped investing in network expansion and distributed the company’s earnings as profit. Now, the users of the company’s services are suffering as a consequence,” Jabbar added.

Presently, four mobile phone operators and tower sharing companies have more than 30,000 mobile phone network towers across the country.  

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