Halt in the city: Dhaka fixed line bidding delayed

9 May 2006

The Bangladesh Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (BTRC) yesterday suspended an auction for four fixed line operating licences in Dhaka after the High Court halted proceedings for two months because of ‘legal complications’ with the application process. At least 13 companies purchased bidding documents by the 8 May closing date for the Dhaka Multi Exchange Area, which consists of Dhaka City, Zinzira, Savar, Narayanganj, Gazipur and Tongi. The applicants include provincial licence holders RanksTel, Westec (Bay Phone), Dhaka Telecom, Bashundhara Group, TeleBarta (Jubok Phone), Peoples Telecom, National Telecom, Square Informatix, OneTel and Jalalabad Telecom (Bijoy Phone). ‘The bidding process for fixed phone [services] in the central zone is stayed until further notice due to some court proceedings,’ said a BTRC official.

Currently, only around 5% of the capital’s estimated 14 million inhabitants have a fixed phone. State-run operator Bangladesh Telegraph & Telephone Board (BTTB) has been unable to meet the growing demand for lines in the city, estimated to be anywhere between 250,000 and a million. The only private sector telco licensed to provide fixed line services in the central telecoms zone is UK-owned WorldTel. In April 2005 WorldTel contracted Chinese vendor ZTE to install a CDMA-based WiLL network with a 200,000 user capacity in Dhaka, claiming it would launch limited mobility services by October 2005, but it has since repeatedly deferred its commercial launch. For its first rollout phase, now scheduled for next month at the earliest, WorldTel has announced a total budget of USD150 million to serve at least 150,000 new customers, with a longer term goal of rolling out 300,000 lines in several stages.

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