Before Bangladesh goes for 5G technology, it needs to improve the existing 4G services, which are not up to the mark, says Huawei Technologies (Bangladesh) Ltd Chief Executive Officer Zhang Zhengjun. In a exclusive interview with DhakaTribune's Ahmed Shawki, Zhengjun sheds light on the potential of the ICT sector in the country.
What is the market readiness in the country for 5G technology?
The Bangladesh market has a huge potential in ICT sector. This is why it is heading towards the latest technological advancement with the 5G deployment plan. However, there are some areas, which need to be worked on before going for the 5G.
The first thing needed for 5G is the availability of the mobile phone operators which is already there. But the countries which have deployed 5G, they at first built a solid base for 4G. Bangladesh already launched 4G technology but the availability is not up to the mark.
The government and the mobile phone operators need to focus on building a solid 4G network. I have travelled outside Dhaka at different times and there are places where the network coverage is 2G. So to make the 5G technology successful, we need to have a much better 4G.
Other countries which deployed 5G abolished their 3G technology as it is highly costly to maintain so many networks. Bangladesh can also take the same path.
In the meantime, the government can take initiatives for setting research and development hubs across the country with 5G facility where developers can work with their ideas. This is how China now has companies like Alibaba which became so successful in a short period of time because we had the infrastructure to backup such ideas.
With such initiative innovators will come up with country-based use case for 5G. In South Korea, they have such special zones where developers can come and work for free with their ideas. When a startup becomes successful, they start to pay higher tax and employ more and more people.
What can be the use case for 5G in Bangladesh?
The first positive thing about a country having 5G is it attracts a lot of foreign investment. Malaysia and Thailand are currently so keen to deploy 5G as they have foreign investors in queue. Government high-ups from these countries visited our company and showed their keen interest about deploying 5G.
So, when Bangladesh will have 5G, it will attract a lot of foreign investment. Bangladesh does not have much heavy industry but with 5G, foreign investment and automated factories, it will be able to go for heavy manufacturing. For example, in China 5G technology is used for mining robots and cars. It significantly reduced the risk factor for the mining workers.
Bangladesh has so big a population in such a small land and there is not much natural resources. So to make this people technologically skillful is one way to make the most out of what you have.
Other than the production sector, 5G technology will break new grounds in entertainment, education and health sector which will improve the quality of life.
What are the ICT potentials the country can explore?
The future of the world is digital economy. Digital economy accounts for $12 trillion industry across the globe. In China, digital economy was worth $5 trillion until last year. Digital economy is an idea that you can literally do everything digitally. Like, we use so many apps for so many services and the combined value of these products and services makes digital economy.
Bangladesh has huge potential as the country has demographic dividend. The digital economy is relatively small in the country. But the government is working very hard to make it a digital Bangladesh. With better infrastructure and skilled IT manpower the country can become a digital economy.
What could be the cost of 5G deployment?
It is too early to say the cost of 5G development. A large part of the cost will depend on the price of the 5G spectrum. As per our understanding, 2.6-3.5 GHz will be the ideal 5G spectrum band for Bangladesh.
The government is working on the 5G roadmap and planning a auction of the spectrum. If the spectrum price is high their entire deployment cost will be higher.
How is Huawei Bangladesh doing in the country?
So far, we are very happy about the business in the country and Bangladesh is one of first few countries where we started operating outside China.
Last year the overall business in the country was dull and that also affected us. We saw about 30-35% decline in the projected revenue. However, things are moving in positive direction now and we are very hopeful for a better 2020.