Regulator eases up on fixed network operator Banglaphone

28 Sep 2009

Privately owned fixed network operator Banglaphone has resumed operations after more than two years in limbo, following the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission’s (BTRC) recent relaxation of restrictions it imposed on the company’s wholesale fibre-optic services, local newspaper the Daily Star reports. Banglaphone, run by US-based Bangladeshi citizen Amjad H Khan, launched in 2006, but focused on wholesale and corporate customers, in contrast to its fellow private PSTN licensees which concentrated on local access wireless in the local loop (WiLL) services, and the BTRC accused it of illegally sub-leasing its optical fibre network. Under the country’s interim military-backed government the regulator ordered Banglaphone to suspend its network sharing operations at the beginning of 2008, as the telco continued to ignore licence stipulations of minimum rollout targets for local telephony services. The current government took a softer view of the company than previous administrations, and after reviewing legal documents from court cases relating to Banglaphone, it issued the firm with a permit for leasing or sharing of E1, optical fibre, duct and other telecoms infrastructure in August 2009.

Banglaphone has resumed its services to at least one previous customer, state-owned cellular network operator Teletalk, and is in the process of opening business with other operators, offering facilities including a 3,600km fibre-optic network interconnecting with the country’s international submarine fibre gateway at Cox’s Bazar and stretching to Dhaka and Sylhet. The Daily Star quotes sources as saying that the unofficial reason for the previous regulatory ‘hostility’ towards Banglaphone was linked with Amjad H Khan’s purchase of a majority share of controversial telecoms licensee WorldTel, which, according to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms database, was originally given an exclusive fixed line licence covering Dhaka but failed to launch and prevented other telcos from entering the capital for several years. The database also notes that Banglaphone now faces increased competition in the private sector wholesale facilities market, after a Nationwide Telecommunication Transmission Network (NTTN) licence was issued by the BTRC in January 2009 to Fiber@Home Ltd, covering long-distance and local access voice and data services.

Bangladesh,

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