May 10, 2009

TeleTalk to get Tk 2,000cr development fund

The government has finally paid heed to struggling TeleTalk's cry for development fund. A Tk 2,000 crore will soon be allocated for the state mobile phone operator to reach out its network to additional 55 lakh customers in the next couple of years."The fund will be spent for adding 55 lakh customers to our network. Of the planned customer acquisition, 15 lakh would be 3G customers," said Md Mojibur Rahman, managing director of TeleTalk Bangladesh Limited. TeleTalk has been in severe financial constraints since its inception in 2005, with having only 10 lakh subscriber capacity.

At the beginning, the public limited company had to go for a Tk 273 crore expansion project, now being developed by the European Nokia-Siemens Networks and Huawei of China to reach 1.8 million new customers by 2009. The government announced Tk 49,000 crore projects last week to develop the state-run telecom operators struggling to compete with the private sector ones because of the lack of latest technology support.

Besides the funds for TeleTalk, Tk 200 crore will be earmarked for IT, Tk 600 crore for WiMAX, Tk 1,500 crore for setting up next generation network and optical fibre. However, the execution of all the projects is subject to availability of easy loans from Japan International Cooperation Agency. Officials said the government has sought Tk 2,000 crore from the Chinese government. The Economic Relations Division is getting ready to negotiate with the Chinese government soon.

As of now, TeleTalk has already established its network foothold in 64 districts, 402 upazilas and most of the highways. The government initiated the mobile project through the formerly BTTB (Bangladesh Telegraph and Telephone Board) aiming to minimise any monopoly, said to be created by private sector operators. However, the company keeps struggling with its limited capacity despite market demands.

In its latest move, the government announced another plan to bring TeleTalk under Bangladesh Telecommunications Company Ltd (BTCL) as a subsidiary company. TeleTalk has only 0.98 million customers as of March 2009. Grameenphone is the market leader with having 21.05 million customers, followed by Banglalink's 10.83 million and AKTEL's 8.76 million during the same period. Bangladesh's six mobile operators now serve more than 45 million customers.


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