Airtel Bangladesh has launched commercial 3G 2100MHz mobile services with coverage of parts of Dhaka and Chittagong, following a trial service introduced last month. The launch means that all four of the private sector cellcos issued UMTS licences in September have now inaugurated full commercial 3G services. Indian-backed Airtel’s website says that its 3G signal currently covers twelve districts of Dhaka (Nikunja 1&2, Baridhara + Baridhara DOHS, Gulshan 1&2, Banani + Banani DOHS, Mohakhali + Mohakhali DOHS, Bijoy Sharani, Farmgate, Tejgaon I/A, Lalmatia, Kalabagan, Panthapath, Hatirpool) and ten districts of Chittagong (Agrabad, GEC, Dampara, Tigerpass, Riazuddin Bazaar, Dewan Hat, CEPZ, Naval Academy, South Halishohor, Airport). The operator is offering pre- and post-paid services, with a choice of seven data tariffs with volumes ranging from 15MB to 5GB. Under a current promotion, if a user buys a 1GB package in November 2013 they received 1GB bonus data free of charge; if the user continues to purchase a 1GB monthly pack over the next eleven months they will receive the 1GB bonus in each month.
Airtel Bangladesh’s CEO Chris Tobit said recently that the cellco will invest up to USD50 million in the next three years to roll out its 3G network, with coverage of all divisional headquarter cities expected by January 2014. He added that currently around 7%-8% of Airtel’s users have 3G handsets, but the number will rise to at least 12% soon after the service is launched. Tobit also urged the government to bring down the import duty on 3G equipment, saying that if tax breaks are introduced for the next three to five years on imports of 3G devices such as handsets or modems, it will be possible to reduce the prices of 3G handsets to as low as BDT1,000 (USD12.60) if customs duties are cut.