Mobile companies’ latest data show that Robi’s investment declined the most to Tk850 crore in January-September in 2019 compared to Tk1,500 in the same period of 2018
Investment of three major private mobile phone operators of the country declined in nine months of 2019 as the regulator tightened its noose around them, restricting their expansion.
Besides, inter-operator disagreement over tower sharing stood in the way of new investment.
Mobile companies’ latest data show that Robi’s investment declined the most to Tk850 crore in January-September in 2019 compared to Tk1,500 in the same period of 2018.
Grameenphone's investment declined to Tk1,010 crore from Tk1,290 crore while Banglalink witnessed a decline in investment to Tk540 crore from Tk710 crore in the same period.
The three private mobile phone operators invested Tk5,268.51 crore for 4G spectrum and Tk4,450.83 crore for 3G spectrum. Industry people look forward to an increased investment for the upcoming 5G technology.
According to mobile company insiders, major chunk of the investment of mobile operators goes to network expansion and building towers to improve coverage and service quality.
Besides, upgradation and maintenance of the towers also require additional investments.
Last year, investment in the sectors came to a halt due to two key reasons — disagreement among the operators over price of tower sharing and suspension of all NOCs in the wake of disputes over audit claim by the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission.
"2019 was a very grim year in terms of investment for most of the mobile network operators in the country. Top two operators could not invest due to suspension of all kinds of NOCs following audit claim by BTRC. Besides, as the TowerCo operator is yet to be operational, mobile operators could not expand network in the period. This impacted the investment and service quality,” Association of Mobile Telecom Operators of Bangladesh (AMTOB) Secretary General SM Farhad told Dhaka Tribune on Wednesday.
On November 1 last year, BTRC issued licences to four firms to build mobile phone towers and run operations in a bid to separate the network business from mobile phone operators.
Under the latest regulations, mobile operators cannot build their tower without agreement with any of the tower companies.
Last year the stand-off between the mobile phone operators and the tower companies on pricing of tower sharing put construction of around 3,000 new network towers across the country on hold.
Banglalink was affected solely because of the towerco-telco tussle as other factors did not touch the company.
Meanwhile, the telecom regulator in July last year decided to restrict permission for various services, imports, and infrastructure development by mobile phone operators GP and Robi for non-payment of Tk13,445 crore audit claim.
As the audit issue is currently pending with the court, both the companies could not expand their network tower and import necessary equipment.
Asked about the issue, Post and Telecommunication Minister Mustafa Jabbar told Dhaka Tribune that lowering investment and repatriating higher profit was a trend of the telecom operators.
“This is a very bad trend. We have given them guidelines for the agreement with the tower companies but they did not comply. It is not our fault. Because of their lack of investment and failure to improve network quality the users are suffering,” he said.