Many of you may have watched the “Fire elei Jamai Ador” TV advertisement. This is roughly translated as “You will get a special reception when you come back”.
The ad showed a father-in-law making special arrangements for his son-in-law’s visit.
It was made for Teletalk’s SIM card reactivation campaign in an attempt to boost subscribers.
Despite all kinds of support from the government to thrive in the telecommunication sector, state-owned Teletalk has so far failed to take off. The company has been incurring continuous losses while other private operators are making big profits.
According to the Ministry of Posts, Telecommunications and Information Technology, Teletalk faced a loss of Tk278 crore in 2018 while Grameenphone, the country’s leading telecom operator, posted a profit of Tk3,520 crore during the same year.
As opposed to other companies, Teletalk has also been losing subscribers gradually. In 2016, it had 44 lakh subscribers. Now it has 38 lakh.
A recent statement from Grameenphone says the company acquired 13 lakh new subscribers in the first half of 2019. Not only Grameenphone, but the two other private operators are also gaining more and more subscribers.
Experts opined that Teletalk is the victim of a weak and corrupt management which has left the company in a miserable situation.
Abu Syed Khan, a telecom expert, told The Business Standard: “The management has left the company in a sorry state. If they wanted to lift the company up, they could have done it very easily.”
However, Teletalk does not think it has a problem in the management. It said investment is responsible for the company’s current situation.
“We do not have enough network coverage which is our main problem. Investment and finance are other limitations,” said Company Secretary and Deputy General Manager Targhibul Islam.
There are currently four mobile phone operators in the market. Each of them is offering affordable services in a bid to attain new subscribers.
However, Teletalk has some advantages over other operators. For example, it is mandatory for government officials to subscribe to Teletalk. The company also got a big chunk of subscribers from different government projects aimed at promoting telecommunication services to marginal people and women.
Under the “Mayer Hashi” or “Mother’s smile” project, Teletalk got 10 lakh subscribers. 20 lakh subscriptions were added under the “Oporajita” project, which aims at empowering women.
The company also got about 2 lakh subscribers from “Bornomala” (Alphabet) and “Agami” (Future) projects.
Mandatory in e-governance
Teletalk has been made a mandatory operator for major e-governance and IT services.
Prospective university-level students are bound to apply and pay application fees through this operator.
PSC (Primary School Certificate), JSC (Junior School Certificate), SSC (Secondary School Certificate) and HSC (Higher Secondary Certificate) results are obtained by sending text messages from Teletalk numbers.
In addition to students, job applicants are also obliged to send their applications though this operator.
Priority in 3G services
Teletalk was given the priority to introduce Third Generation (3G) mobile phone services in the country, which it did in 2012. Grameenphone, Robi and Banglalink were allowed to introduce 3G services in 2014.
Although Teletalk began 3G operations two years before others, it failed to attain a significant number of subscribers.
Targhibul said the investment was the main problem in this matter.
“Grameenphone invests more than Tk40,000 crore every year whereas we could do a maximum of Tk4,000 crore. It is only natural that they will have more network capacity than us,” he said.
Why Teletalk is not getting subscribers
In spite of the privileges it has enjoyed, Teletalk still failed to attain the minimum number of subscribers to compete with other operators.
In comparison with Grameenphone’s 7.53 crore subscribers, the company has only 38 lakh, which is negligible.
Users said poor network and services is the main reason why they shy away from Teletalk. The network coverage is not adequate enough for them to manage the day-to-day communication.
A Teletalk subscriber in Habiganj Sadar upazila tweeted: “Earlier, we could get some network coverage. 3G signal was poor but it could be found. Now it has disappeared. I am using 2G in the 4G era.”
Another subscriber Imtiaz Shoykat wrote on Twitter: “I bought a Teletalk SIM card with high hopes to use the internet but it does not work as per my expectations.”
There are also allegations that Teletalk charges subscribers in unjustified manners without providing any services.
Jaber Hossain Avi wrote on Twitter in April 2018: “I found out that my phone balance is only Tk0.89 after receiving the Bangla New Year’s offer. I would have been happy if my account was refilled with Tk100 instead of these useless text messages.”