The CEO of GrameenPhone, Anders Jensen, has told Bloomberg reporters that Bangladesh’s largest cellco by users is looking to buy at least one domestic rival to alleviate intense competitive pressure and expand its network. ‘We are always seeking to extend our footprint…[Bangladesh’s six mobile operators] are two to three too many,’ he said. GrameenPhone, majority owned by Norway’s Telenor, aims to gain more wireless spectrum via acquisitions, in a bid to realise a target of adding seven million users a year. ‘If we get additional spectrum, we will be more willing to invest,’ Jensen added, implying that GrameenPhone will otherwise decrease investment as it nears network capacity. It had 15.15 million GSM subscribers at the end of September, up by 5.74 million in twelve months, whilst there remains huge potential for growth in Bangladesh, which had a cellular penetration of less than 15% at the start of this year, according to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms database. At the end of June 2007 GrameenPhone had just under 50% of the country’s wireless subscribers, with competition coming from (in size order ): Telecom Malaysia International Bangladesh (AKTEL); Banglalink (wholly owned by Egypt’s Orascom Telecom); Pacific Bangladesh Telecom (CityCell, controlled by Singapore Telecom); TeleTalk (a unit of domestic fixed line incumbent BTTB); and Warid Telecom Bangladesh (part of UAE-based Abu Dhabi Group). All operators offer GSM services apart from CityCell, which runs a CDMA network. Additional competition comes from a host of regional fixed-wireless CDMA operators. In the Bloomberg report, the GrameenPhone chief was also quoted as saying that his firm will list its shares in an IPO on the Dhaka stock exchange sometime next year. Telenor has resisted calls from its local partner in GrameenPhone, Grameen Telecom, to give up majority control, but in April the Norwegian telco proposed an IPO as an alternative way of bringing more Bangladeshi ownership into the cellco.
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