Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) is an independent Commission established under the Bangladesh Telecommunication Act, 2001 (Act no. 18 of 2001) published by the Parliament in the Bangladesh Gazette, extraordinary issue of April 16, 2001. BTRC started functioning from January 31, 2002. In the intervening years it has pursued a vision to facilitate affordable telecommunication services of acceptable quality for all citizens of Bangladesh, regardless of their location. It has achieved substantial progress by progressive liberalization of the sector and by encouraging competition.
The BTRC is now proposing to move to a Unified License Regime (ULR). Unified licenses are growing in popularity because they leave it up to the operator to choose the appropriate technology for each specific need and to choose the most appropriate services to offer. This discussion document is designed to identify the issues that arise in the process and to seek feedback from the stakeholders affected. It will begin by a brief summary of the situation in Bangladesh. This is followed by analysis of the arguments for and against a unified license system and a discussion of the appropriate migration path from today to the future. It concludes with a questionnaire designed to allow operators and other stakeholders to have their say on an appropriate form of a ULR.
Telecommunications in Bangladesh
The communication sector of Bangladesh has changed dramatically within the last few years. The introduction of substantial competition has seen dramatic increases in service and improvements in service quality. In the first budget of the new government, the government allocation to the ICT sector as a whole was US$ 82 million, double the allocation of the year before and this included US$ 15 million of ICT development, US$ 30 million for the Equity and Entrepreneurship Fund for ICT promotion and US$ 20 million for and an annual development program for the science ministry. The telecom sector in Bangladesh is rapidly emerging from a dysfunctional state monopoly to a competitive sector characterized by competitive pricing and substantially improved customers service. However, there are major distortions in the system that the BTRC believes a move to Unified Licenses will address. The following paragraphs discuss each of the components of the sector.
The PSTN operators in Bangladesh are:
BTCL Former BTTB
Ranks Telecom Ltd.
Tele Barta Ltd. - branded under the name Jubok phone.
Jalalabad Telecom Ltd. - branded under the name Bijoy Phone. Onetel Communication Ltd.
National Telecom Ltd.
Peoples Telecom Ltd.
Dhaka Telephone Co. Ltd.
Integrated Services Limited (ISL) - branded under the name Sheba Phone S.A Telecom System Ltd.
The number of PSTN subscribers in Bangladesh as of February 2009 was 1.372 million. The market in Bangladesh is divided into 5 Zones. Some PSTN companies operate over several zones, others are confined to a single zone. All are in bad shape financially as their licenses in many cases load them with large social obligations, while at the same time restricting their rights to compete in the most profitable segments of the market. There is enormous potential in offering broadband using ADSL technology over existing wires, but the companies are in such poor shape they are unable to take advantage of this opportunity. With imminent competition from wireless – fixed –mobile technologies such WIMAX companies predict their own demise in the near future unless change to regulatory restrictions come very soon.
Mobile Phone Operators
There are 6 mobile phone operators in Bangladesh. These are: Grameenphone Ltd.(GP)
Sheba Telecom Ltd.(Banglalink)
Teletalk Bangladesh Ltd.(Teletalk)
Airtel Telecom Int.(Warid Telecom (Bangladesh))