A megaproject of the state-owned telecom mobile phone service provider Teletalk is set to be placed for Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec) approval on Tuesday next, according to planning commission sources.
The project titled 'Expansion of Teletalk's Network up to Rural Areas and Network Readiness for 5G Services' involves a cost of Tk3,279 crore. Teletalk will provide Tk123.50 crore of this amount, and has asked the government to fund the remaining Tk3155.50 crore at five percent interest.
Teletalk, which is still lagging behind its market rivals, aims at network expansion and improved services under the project by 2022.
The project proposal says Teletalk has limited 4G service in divisional headquarters and in some district towns. Teletalk customers at the upazila level are getting 2G network-based voice service, however, some remote unions and villages do not even have 2G service yet.
The state-owned company in the project proposal says the project will prioritise expanding 4G service to union and village level.
Teletalk officials said that they need at least 18,160 Base Transceiver Stations (BTSs) to ensure countrywide 4G mobile network. The company presently has 4864 BTSs — only around 26 percent of the required number.
However, after completing the project, Teletalk officials say they will have 8,977 base transceiver stations, which is around 50 percent of the total number they require for smooth 4G operation.
Teletalk struggling with ongoing project: IMED
The Implementation Monitoring and Evaluation Division (IMED) under the Planning Ministry said Teletalk is struggling with its ongoing 2G expansion project.
A report last October said Teletalk was able to spend only 37 percent (Tk249.18 crore) of the total allocation (Tk675.81 crore) in the first 30 months of this project.
The project titled 'Introducing 3G and Expanding 2.5G Network' will conclude in June, 2020. The project covers upgrading existing Base Transceiver Stations and setting up 900 new BTSs for 3G and 4G services.
The IMED thinks that utilising the remaining Tk426.63 crore in the last three months of the project tenure will be challenging.
Govt has six foreign investors awaiting
Posts and Telecommunications Minister Mustafa Jabbar recently said half a dozen countries – Japan, China, South Korea, Russia, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – have given proposals to invest in state-owned Teletalk and its 5G services.
The minister said, "A company with investment has already sent us a business proposal and we are considering it. Besides, some other companies have also shown interest in getting licenses to provide 5G telecom services in the country."
"We have placed a Tk3200-crore investment proposal to the government. Teletalk's current 30 percent coverage will expand to 80 percent once the project is implemented," the minister added.
Teletalk began operations in March, 2005 with the aim of providing low-cost mobile phone services to marginalised people through fair competition among government and private service providers.