May 22, 2009

BTRC did it again – No Light House for Fixed Wireless Operators

Fortune of fixed wireless operators is in stake because of having a step mother like BTRC. Seems that the bureaucratic organization don’t have any plan for fixed operators and thousands of people associated with them. In my earlier post, I talked about BTRC’s plan to break their shell to pay some attention to entire sectors associated with ICT. But now what we saw that they have plans only for the state owned BTCL, TeleTalk or corporate giants like WiMAX and Telecom operators, nobody else.

To change this view of government, Internet Service Providers Association of Bangladesh (ISPAB) arranged a road show titled Digital March 2009 in association with BTRC from Dhaka to Chittagong. They hoped that officials from government and new BTRC chairman would provide some guidelines to the fixed wireless operators in a two-day programme, marked the World Telecommunication and Information Society Day (WTISD)-2009 followed by the road show. But it was a great regret, absolutely nothing came from them.

Initially, in 1996, when internet first came to Bangladesh, almost all of the ISP’s were Dialup. But several limitation of Dialup like requirement of a telephone line, disability to provide higher throughput etc. introduced Broadband. And frankly speaking, despite of having DSL or even Optical fiber, Wireless became the best choice for operators and subscribers because of its ability to provide higher bandwidth, longer distance in relatively sustainable cost. Even today, wireless is the most convenient way to provide last mile solution.

Now, fixed wireless operators are holding the bulk of the internet users in all over Bangladesh. Thousands of Dollars are already invested in this sector. Many of them imported WiMAX equipment, in IEEE 802.16d standard or generally speaking fixed WiMAX, when there was no guideline from BTRC before issuing WiMAX license. Every one in the industry hoped that Government will give priority to the existing ISP’s in awarding WiMAX license. But instead of that, two new giant BanglaLion, Augere won the bid along with Brac BDMail, the lone survivor of the existing ISP’s (who later also forfeited the license).

Since then fixed wireless operators are in total disarray. There is a great deal of anxiety about new investment and deployment because in BWA license guideline the BTRC told that “The existing ISP license holders operating in 2.3, 2.5, 3.5, 5.2, 5.4 GHz, 700 MHz or any other bands will be allowed to continue their fixed wireless Internet services. They shall not be allowed to provide mobile broadband wireless access (BWA) services.” But to compete the mobile operators (either mobile WiMAX or 3G), it will be impossible for them to operate only in Fixed. But this law was forced upon them by the regulatory commission reigned under former caretaker government. With the change in government as well as chairman of BTRC, with the slogan of making Digital Bangladesh, all hoped government’s way of looking at this sector will change. But looks like; it is another case of old wine in a new bottle.


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