The Bangladeshi unit of UAE-based Warid Telecom has announced that it plans to launch commercial mobile operations in early 2007, making it the country’s sixth cellular network operator. In September 2005 Warid’s owner, the Abu Dhabi Group, signed a memorandum of understanding with Bangladesh over its proposed USD1 billion investment in the country, spanning the telecoms, hotels and pharmaceutical sectors. The following month Warid won a national GSM licence, which it paid USD50 million for in December 2005. Warid will be competing against market leader GrameenPhone, majority owned by Norway’s Telenor, Telekom Malaysia-backed AKTEL, Banglalink, a subsidiary of Egypt’s Orascom Telecom, CityCell, a joint venture between Pacific Bangladesh Telecom Limited and Singapore’s SingTel, and state-run Teletalk. Mobile subscribers in the poverty-stricken country – population 144 million – have doubled to more than 16 million in the last twelve months alone, with total numbers expected to top 20 million by mid-2007.
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