3G services rolled out in Bangladesh

Dhaka, Sep 29 (IANS) Bangladesh's biggest cellphone operator Grameenphone Sunday announced the roll-out of its 3G network in capital Dhaka. The network will eventually cover the entire nation.

Grameenphone, 55.8 percent owned by Norwegian telecom company Telenor and 34.2 percent owned by local Grameen Telecom, made the announcement at a conference Sunday, a few weeks after its acquisition of 3G spectrum, Xinhua reported.

Bangladesh's Minister for Post and Telecommunications Shahara Khatun inaugurated the 3G network together with Jon Fredrik Baksaas, chief executive officer of Telenor Group, and senior government and Grameenphone officials.

Speaking at the ceremony, Khatun said Grameenphone, which has coverage across all south Asian countries and has over 44 million subscribers, would shortly expand the 3G services around the country.

"I would like to thank Grameenphone for taking the initiative to roll out 3G early. I hope that Grameenphone will expand 3G services around the country the way it had taken mobile telephony to people of this country," Khatun said.

For the time being, the network would be used by its employees and some selected customers who were expected to give valuable feedback ahead of the commercial launch, Grameenphone said in a statement.

As previously announced, Grameenphone said it planned to launch commercial 3G services by early October in selected areas of Dhaka and Chittagong.

All divisional cities would be covered by December 2013, while the 64 district towns would be covered by the end of the first quarter of 2014, it added.

Jon Fredrik Baksaas, CEO of Telenor Group, said Grameenphone has been a long-term contributor to the development of Bangladesh through its 16 years of operation.

"I thank the government and its representatives for acknowledging this effort and look forward to seeing Grameenphone bringing a new era of mobile services to Bangladesh," Baksaas said.

Grameenphone, which is listed on the Dhaka Stock Exchange in Bangladesh, acquired 10 MHz of 3G spectrum at a cost of $210 million in an auction arranged by Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission, more than any of the participating competitors.

Three other operators - Banglalink, Robi and Airtel - each acquired 5 MHz of spectrum at a cost of $105 million.

Grameenphone said the spectrum, which was part of the 2100 MHz band, would enable the roll-out of a nationwide 3G network with enhanced capacity and instant mobile internet access for all customers.

Grameenphone was set up in March 1997 by 2006 Nobel Peace Prize winner, Muhammad Yunus.

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