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MNOs get until Jan 15 for filing network tower plans

ISMAIL HOSSAIN | November 27, 2022 00:00:00

The country's mobile network operators (MNOs) have to submit plans for building, leasing and selling of network towers (base transceiver station or BTS) to the regulator by January 15 for period until June 30, 2023.

Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) will take the plans for every six months-- in January and in July-- of new tower plans to be built by MNOs to allocate share to significant market power (SMP) Edotco.

According to a decision taken in recent commission meeting of BTRC, the MNOs also require NOC (no objection certificate) before going into any agreement with SMP Edotco.

In August last, the BTRC declared mobile tower company Edotco Bangladesh as an SMP to restrict monopoly in the market.

The regulator also imposed some restrictions in September on Edotco following the SMP declaration.

As per the restrictions, Edotco - from now on - cannot lease, buy or install more than 25 per cent (of the needed) towers in a financial year.

However, MNOs can award work orders to non-SMP tower companies to build, lease tower as many as they can as there is no capping for them. The MNOs also do not need to get NOC before going into agreement with non-SMP companies.

The regulator awarded four tower companies- Edotco, AB HighTech Consortium, Summit Towers and Kirtonkhola Tower Bangladesh Ltd- the job in 2018 to build, maintain and share their towers with MNOs for which they charge service fees.

People in the industry say mobile operators need 500 additional towers in different spots of capital Dhaka to provide the level of service customers expect.

Whenever a mobile network carrier needs to expand service in any location, they have to get in touch for acquiring new sites for setting up towers.

Then, tower-sharing companies find legit landlords, sign lease agreements with them and secure permission from the authorities concerned.

Sector insiders say the quality of a mobile network largely depends on the spectrum or frequency and number of network towers.

Due to high user density, the radio spectrums of the MNOs have always been inadequate.

User occupancy per MHz of the spectrum has reportedly decreased due to lower number of BTS than required.

At present, Grameenphone, the largest mobile operator in the country, has 1,700 network sites in Dhaka city. The operator requires 334 new sites in the capital to provide the best service possible.

Of these, 75 critical locations include government strategic areas, universities, hospitals and city corporation areas where customers are experiencing poor network signals.

Similarly, Robi Axiata Limited, the second largest carrier in the country, also lacks 111 required tower sites in the Dhaka region.

Banglalink and Teletalk also need an additional number of network towers in Dhaka to provide quality mobile communication services, industry insiders say.

As per the guidelines, tower sharing is mandatory, adding that stricter vigilance by the BTRC is urgently needed in this regard.

Above all these, getting approval from BTRC is also lengthy. "We are trying to get into agreements with tower companies for new BTS but it takes a lot of time," said Khairul Basher, Head of Communications at Grameenphone Ltd.

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