While the government is expecting to roll out 5G services by 2021, the state-owned mobile service provider Teletalk is struggling to even expand its network for 3G and 2G services.
It has been 30 months since a project was initiated to upgrade its services, but Teletalk has got only 37 percent of the allocated fund. It now appears almost impossible to utilise the rest of the fund by December this year when the project tenure ends.
With only two and a half months to go, the project implementing agency has not given any information about the actual progress of the work, according to the Implementation Monitoring and Evaluation Division.
More than 1,200 3G and 500 2G base transceiver stations were supposed be installed in all upazila headquarters and other parts of the country between April 2017 and December 2018 under the project titled "Teletalk Bangladesh Ltd:
Introduction of 3G Technology and 2.5G Network (Phase II)" at a cost of 675.81 crore.
Later, the project schedule was extended to December 2019.
The project implementation monitoring body doubts that the remaining Tk426.63 crore will be utilised within this short time.
Dr Ranjit Kumar Sarkar, the director of the organisation, said he recently inspected the project and sent a report to the Telecommunication Division and other agencies concerned, including Teletalk, asking for a work plan to utilise more than 63 per cent of the project's fund in the next few months.
The report also recommended that the ministry concerned prepare an annual action plan for all of their projects under implementation.
Sources at Teletalk said they got the first portion of the project allocation one year after its approval from the executive committee of the national economic council on July 25, 2017.
Accepting this as a reason for the delay in project implementation, the posts and telecommunications ministry extended the deadline by one year to December 2019.
While talking to told The Business Standard, Project Director Md Shahab Uddin claimed that there has been 70 percent progress in the project has so far.
Since the planning commission did not disburse the funds as required, and since there is also no possibility of getting any money before April next year, Teletalk may ask for one more year to implement the project, he added.
Abul Mansur Md Faizullah, secretary to the Implementation Monitoring and Evaluation Division, told The Business Standard that the project progress report has been sent to the authorities concerned with recommendations to speed up project implementation.
The project had been given 33 months for implementation, but received Tk249.18 crore – only 36.87 percent of the total allocation.
The Implementation Monitoring and Evaluation Division says that Teletalk spent Tk9.34 crore against the allocation of Tk10.75 crore in the 2017-18 fiscal year for the implementation of the project.
In the 2018-19 fiscal year, the project had an allocation of Tk210 crore, while the expenditure was Tk.209.16 crore.
Tk665.07 crore was supposed to be given for the project this fiscal year, but it got only Tk350 crore and spent Tk30.62 in the first two months.