Grameenphone plans to purchase additional spectrum in an effort to improve the quality of its service amid a deluge of call drops. The telecom giant’s service has allegedly suffered as it has not purchased sufficient spectrum to keep up with its growing customer base.
According to estimates, GPs customer base is about 21 times that of Teletalk, but the spectrum purchased by the private operator is not even double the spectrum of Teletalk.
New Post, Telecommunication and Information Technology Minister Mustafa Jabbar has asked Grameenphone to purchase more spectrum to improve its services and reduce customer complaints.
Two ministers had even aired their displeasure about Grameenphones call drops in the previous parliament.
Telecom experts have pointed to the limited spectrum range of Grameenphone as the reason for the call drops – a situation of disconnection of call before caller ends the call.
Mobile communication towers allocate spectrum according to the number of users, said Sumon Ahmed Sabir, chief technology officer at [email protected] Ltd, a nationwide telecom transmission network operator.
“When the spectrum range is not sufficient to meet demands, it causes issues such as call drops or poor data service because the spectrum is stretched thin amongst the users,” he explained.
Grameenphone currently has 37 MHz spectrum allocation. It also has 72.3 million customers, accounting for nearly half of Bangladeshs mobile phone users.
Robi has 47 million users, Banglalink 33.7 million users while state-run Teletalk has 3.88 million subscribers.
Despite having about half the user base of GP, Robis spectrum allocation is 36.4 MHz. Banglalink has 30.6 MHz and Teletalk has 25.20 MHz.
“Grameenphone has the worst service,” Minister Mustafa Jabbar told bdnews24.com on Sunday. “The main reason is that they do not have sufficient spectrum. They do not have enough to meet their users demands.”
Officials at the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission said the amount of spectrum purchased by Bangladesh operators cannot ensure satisfactory services for its users.
Customer dissatisfactions prompted the BTRC last year to complete a year-long study of call drops. The study was conducted from September 2017 to September 2018.
Grameenphone dropped 1.03 billion calls over this period. The figure for Robi was 760 million. Banglalink dropped 360 million while Teletalk dropped 60 million calls.
According to the BTRC, the permissible call drop rate is 2 percent. Mobile operators claim the call drop rate is within this limit, but most users disagree.
Grameenphone and Robi had said that dropped calls were standard for mobile sets operating on wireless radio technology and that the call drops on their networks were within BTRC and international standards.
They also claimed the call drop rate was less when considered in the context of their large customer bases.
Operators also pointed out that call drops were not just their fault; these could be caused by poor connections, weak fibre optic networks, interconnections, the quality of user phones and many other factors.
“Nearly every call made by Grameenphone users drops. Some calls are dropped three, or four or even five times. We have to make repeated calls,” former commerce minister Tofail Ahmed told MPs last year.
“When competitors like Robi exist, it is not right for Grameenphone to make profits after causing such issues.”
State Minister for Foreign Affairs Shahriar Alam had also complained of call drops.
BTRC officials say a lot of the spectrum remains unused and the willing operators can buy them.
A top BTRC official told bdnews24.com that 8.4 MHz of the 2G 900 MHz band is unused, as is 12.4 MHz of the 1800 MHz band of 2G and 20 MHz of the 3G 2100 MHz band.
Operators can purchase about 40.8 MHz across these three ranges, he said wishing to remain unnamed.
But operators say they are unable to purchase the spectrum because of the high prices compared with other countries.
But the telecoms minister has promised operators bulk discounts in an effort to encourage them to purchase more spectrum.
“If they wish to buy at wholesale rates, the prices can be reduced,” Mustafa Jabbar said.
“We will reduce the price in line with the law. They will get discounts for bulk purchase. This is available to all operators, but the big target is GP.”
Grameenphone is interested in purchasing more spectrum, he said.
A senior BTRC official told bdnews24.com that Grameenphone had written to them expressing an interest in buying additional spectrum and wants to sit down with the regulators.
The talks will begin shortly, the official said.
“We have informed the authorities that we are interested in discussing the spectrum issue,” Grameenphones Head of External Communications Sayed Talat Kamal told bdnews24.com when contacted for comments.
“But it will not be right to divulge additional details before any talks begin,” he added.