BTCL sees fixed subscriber growth at last, but urgently needs more urban capacity

13 Nov 2009

Following a long period of stagnant subscriber growth, Bangladesh Telecommunications Company Ltd (BTCL) has announced that it has connected around 100,000 new fixed line customers since the start of July, although lack of capacity in several exchanges in Dhaka, Chittagong and other regional centres is an obstacle to growth in urban areas, the state-run telco’s managing director SM Khabiruzzaman told bdnews24.com. Company officials were quoted as saying that BTCL must reinvigorate its marketing efforts to attract subscribers for the 400,000 potential new connections currently available on its network, whilst the authorities are considering allowing the company to ease the strictness of its disconnection policy for unpaid bills, by giving three months notice for clearing dues, to keep hold of existing customers. At present, the telco said, there are 941,000 active BTCL fixed subscriber lines against network capacity of 1.311 million lines. According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, BTCL’s fixed lines in service fell from 889,000 at end-June 2006 to 872,000 by end-June 2009. BTCL reported that July 2009 saw some 29,700 new subscriptions (nearly all in the Khulna region) immediately after the telco started offering free connections outside the multi-exchange areas of metropolitan Dhaka and Chittagong; the previous month there had been only 8,700 subscription activations. 28,400 lines were added in August, 26,000 in September, and 20,000 in October, whilst some 25,000 applicants were waiting for new connections as of the first week of November.

To address the lack of urban capacity, a project to provide 171,000 new connections in Dhaka city under a BTCL self-funded BDT1.97 billion (USD29 million) investment is now underway, the company said. A grand plan to install a million new fixed connections across the country, at a cost of BDT12 billion, had also been initiated, said Khabiruzzaman, with rollout to begin in earnest with the help of a USD189 million ‘soft loan’ from the Chinese government, the MD added. ‘All the formalities have been completed from both sides and work on the project is expected to start soon with floating the tenders,’ said Khabiruzzaman, who continued, ‘The plan is for ten million new land phone connections across the country by the year 2015, keeping up with the government’s ‘Digital Bangladesh’ vision.’

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