The cost of the state-owned mobile service provider Teletalk has sent for approval a revised network expansion project, with its cost slashed by Tk1,075 crore to Tk2,204 crore.
The project cost was initially proposed at Tk3,279 crore.
The revised proposal was prepared under the direction of the prime minister and it was sent to the Planning Commission in the second week of the last month.
On February 11, the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec) sent back the Expansion of Teletalk's Network up to Rural Areas and Network Readiness for the 5G Services project – without approving it.
The prime minister gave a directive for a fresh assessment on the project.
According to the project proposal, Teletalk's 4G internet services will be expanded to rural areas.
Additionally, the state-owned mobile operator will take the necessary preparation, keeping the 5G service rollout between 2021 and 2023 at the forefront.
As part of it, the existing complexities of Teletalk's network will be solved and its capacity and platform will be upgraded. The project is expected to be completed by 2023.
When asked about downsizing the project cost, Targhibul Islam, deputy general manager (admin) at Teletalk, told The Business Standard that spending has been reduced in some areas of the new proposal. "Spending on installation of base transceiver stations (BTS) towers has been minimised by cutting the number to 500 in the new proposal from 1,500 fixed in the first proposal," he said.
Currently, Teletalk has 7,300 base transceiver stations, which is 26.78% of the required stations.
So, emphasising the importance of sharing network towers of other operators, an instruction was given to revise the project proposal, moving away from the installation of new towers. Additionally, Teletalk had been asked to revise the project – after a third party scrutinises its profits, losses, liabilities, and balance sheets – and submit it again before the Ecnec meeting.
The new project proposal has been restructured based on the project's financial and technical feasibility study report as per the Ecnec decision. Installation of new base transceiver stations has been reduced to 500 from 1,500.
Some Tk219 crore was reduced in revenue expenditure, Tk141 crore in electric equipment and Tk605 crore in the telecommunication equipment areas, read the new proposal.
According to the project proposal, around 10 crore people in the country still do not have Internet access and most of them are villagers. Private companies in the telecom sector are largely reluctant to expand their broadband services in remote areas, considering their business and profit.
According to the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS), there are eight crore businesses in the country, but only 10% have permanent Internet connections.
It will be costly and time consuming to bring Internet services to rural areas through installing optical fibre cables. Getting Internet services to people's doorsteps at a low cost and in less time through wireless mobile technology would be a reasonable move.
Teletalk says it needs a total of 18,000 2G, 3G and 4G mobile network towers across the country to ensure its coverage.
However, 4G equipment will be installed in 3000 towers under the project. This would give 80 lakh subscribers access to Teletalk's existing network. Apart from the modernisation of 200 towers, the 3G and 4G capacity of another 2,000 towers will be extended, and the current 4G service will be connected to 1,000 towers.