Friday, June 14, 2024

Mobile operators’ infrastructure sharing at stake

A regulatory move is holding back mobile operators’ infrastructure sharing business with other service providers. According to a decision of the regulator, the mobile companies will now have to share their network through a common network.
Also, the mobile operators will not be allowed to do such business in the areas where the common network — Nationwide Telecommunications Transmission Network (NTTN) — has coverage.
Now two local companies — fiber@home and Summit Communication — have NTTN licences to provide services under the common network. But this network has a very limited reach.
Now if the mobile companies or other service providers want to rent their services, they will have to rent it at first to the two NTTN licensees, who will then rent those out to other service providers.
The move was taken unilaterally and will affect the business of the mobile operators, they said.
Zia Ahmed, chairman of Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC), said the commission is amending its previous regulations to this effect.
The BTRC move is aimed at encouraging local entrepreneurs, BTRC officials said.
The two NTTN licensees have been responsible for laying underground fibre optic cable across the country to lease out their cable to other service providers since 2008.
The NTTN operators could only develop their network in Dhaka, and fiber@home has developed some capacity outside Dhaka by taking rent of infrastructure from other mobile companies.
On the other hand, the mobile operators have already developed countrywide fibre optic infrastructure investing more than $400 million.
The mobile companies said, if the transmission infrastructure is used by a single company, their resources will be wasted.
The telecom operators also said, as the infrastructure will be rentable to the NTTN operators only, their huge capacity will remain unused. Internet cost of the end users will also go up, as the NTTN licensees will take rent of the line at first, and then rent it out to other service providers, they said.
Mahmud Hossain, chief corporate officer of Grameenphone, said the NTTN operators will take rent of the fibre optic cable from the mobile operators, and they will offer the service after making profit. It will increase the ultimate cost, he said.
Abu Saeed Khan, secretary general of Association of Mobile Telecom Operators Bangladesh, said the current regulatory action will inevitably increase the cost of bandwidth in Bangladesh which is grossly detrimental to the fundamental spirit of ‘Digital Bangladesh’ vision of the government.
The BTRC chairman said if the NTTN operators fail to provide the services, the mobile operators will be allowed to share their transmission network with other service providers.
Arif Al Islam, chief executive officer of Summit Communication, said it is not possible to develop the countrywide infrastructure overnight.
He said, when the third generation mobile technology will be launched in the country, a huge demand for bandwidth will be created, and a common infrastructure will be helpful then.
In the long run, the current regulation will be useful for all, he said.
An official of fiber@home said they are developing their network fast and will be able to provide all types of services required by their clients.
An internet service provider said they do not want to switch to the NTTN, as they fear this network will not be able to provide the services they need.
“We will need interfaces in several points which the NTTN will not be able to give us due to a lack of capacity,” said an official of the ISP, asking not to be named.
“They (the NTTN) have limited services outside Dhaka. Even if we enter their network, we will have to invest further in infrastructure development,” the official added.

-With The Daily Star input

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