Bangladesh Archives — Page 6 of 15


The Budget 2011-2012: Towards Digital Bangladesh round table discussion was held on May 21, 2011. It was organized by the Bangladesh ICT Journalists Forum (BIJF) and it was attended by ICT experts, operators, academicians, activists, and journalists. Honorable State Minister of Science and ICT, Architect Yeafesh Osman was the chief guest. The speakers reflected on the successes and failures of the last two budgets from the ICT industry perspectives. Moreover, specific suggestions were made for the upcoming budget from Internet Service Providers’ Associations and Software Developers.
The results of the newest TRE survey conducted by LIRNEasia are out. We started the survey since before the start of LIRNEasia and have improved it since. The results were released in Dhaka, Bangladesh, at a well attended media event on 12 May 2011. The centerpiece was the sector performance report on Bangladesh by Faheem Hussain, Ph.D.
The AT Kearney Global Services Location Index for 2011 is out. I seem to have missed the 2010 report, so comparing with 2009, which I did do a post on. India is still number 1 and China is number 2. No change. Thailand has slipped to 7 from 4, overtaken by Indonesia.
We are not the greatest fans of the Network Readiness Index, but we do believe it matters. Many of these composite indices are built upon questionable data such as the problematic “Internet users/100” indicator. No time at this moment to probe the details, but here are some key takeaways: The study showed the rapid progress of the so-called Asian Tigers, whose governments have invested heavily in technology. Besides Singapore, Taiwan was ranked 6th, South Korea 10th and Hong Kong 12th. Japan was 19th.
LIRNEasia CEO, Rohan Samarajiva, recently spoke at a workshop organized for the telecom reporters in Bangladesh to strengthen their understanding and know-how on telecom, especially regarding legal, regulatory and business issues. The event has received extensive media exposure. While noting that Bangladesh boasts of the some of the lowest tariffs in the world, largely a result of budget telecom network business model, Rohan argued that the government’s vision for a “digital” Bangladesh can only be met “by extending the budget telecom network model to broadband, building wireless access networks capable of handling data cost-effectively, backed up by non-discriminatory, cost-oriented access to backhaul, including redundant capacity, and offering applications that are of value to consumers, giving them reason to use broadband.” Click here to read the full article in the Daily Star. More coverage will be tracked here in the coming days.
A news report indicates that lowering leased line prices (described as commercial broadband in the report has risen on the policy agenda in Sri Lanka. This is excellent news, though, of course, I would have preferred a story in the past tense: i.e., “domestic and international leased line prices have been reduced.” Present broadband charges which are higher than competitor countries are deterring foreign ICT and business process outsourcing (BPO) firms from setting up in the island and are partly responsible for poor internet penetration, a report said.
I have been invited to speak at an event in Dhaka on March 10th intended to improve the understanding of the complexities of telecom policy and regulation by Bangladeshi journalists. I am here responding to a question whether speaking at events such as this organized by operators could create a negative perception about LIRNEasia. Is it better to have journalists who understand the technical aspects of the industry and the practice of regulation, than not? I think the answer is clearly yes. Does this fall within LIRNEasia’s mission, yes.
Crimes are committed. They should be prevented. If not, criminals should be punished. Someone must be held to account if the government cannot catch the criminal. Why not the telecom operator whose phone the criminal used?
Harsha de Silva, LIRNEasia’s Consultant Lead Economist, has made a submission in response to BTRC’s Call for Comments on a draft regulatory and licensing guidelines on renewal of mobile telecommunication services in Bangladesh. The submission focuses on a few important issues, relating to economic efficiency, transparency and good governance. The guidelines propose a license renewal fee of BDT 10 crore from each operator. An additional fee of BDT 150 crore per MHz of GSM  1800MHz band and CDMA frequency; and/or BDT 300 crore per MHz of GSM 900MHz band from each operator for the initial assignment of spectrum, and a subsequent annual fee is also proposed. LIRNEasia questions the seemingly arbitrary justification used to set the upfront lump-sum license renewal fees.
LIRNEasia celebrated Sri Lanka’s 63rd anniversary of Independence by discussing how to bridge the information and knowledge gaps in the rubber and pineapple value chains in the country, based on the extensive value-chain research conducted by LIRNEasia researchers led by Sriganesh Lokanathan over the past six months. In addition, we initiated research planning for value-chain research in Bangladesh, India and Thailand that will constitute the Knowledge-Based Economies module of LIRNEasia’s current research cycle. Participants from Bangladesh, India, Korea, Nepal and Thailand participated in the rich discussion. Experts from within Sri Lanka included agriculture and demand-side research specialists. The summary report will be posted shortly.
Bangladesh is considering the issuance of 3G frequencies (they should get the license renewal mess sorted; but that is another story). The question of establishing a single 3G network that multiple operators would jointly own and use has been floated by an important stakeholder, the CEO of Banglalink. This is a theoretically good, but practically bad, idea. So LIRNEasia explained why in Bangladesh’s premier English language daily, the Daily Star: The operation of multiple 3G networks, owned and operated by different limited-liability companies, may be sub-optimal if seen solely from resource optimisation or planning perspective. But it is actually the most efficacious for the ground conditions in Bangladesh.

Talk that yields results in Bangladesh

Posted on November 11, 2010  /  4 Comments

Cynics among us decry the endless seminars and workshops and conferences that seem to be unavoidable feature of business and political life. But if the Bangladesh Daily Star has reported it accurately, the recent seminar on the Bangladesh telecom sector has actually achieved significant results. One of the major problems in Bangladesh is the lack of certainty about whether or how the licenses of four leading mobiles operators, which expire in 2011, will be renewed. Economic theory and common sense say that unless an investor knows how long he has an asset, he will not invest in it. Thus, theory would predict a steep decline in investment in each of the networks as they approached 2011.
Abu Saeed Khan, Senior Policy Fellow, who has been with LIRNEasia from the very beginning, has been appointed as the first Secretary General of AMTOB, the mobile operators association of Bangladesh. We congratulate Abu and wish him the very best in contributing to the advance of Bangladesh through productive private-public partnerships. Knowing Abu, we are confident that he will use this prestigious position to steer Bangladesh away from unproductive confrontations of the type we have seen over the past years, to one where the mobile operators who have done the heavy lifting in getting the people of Bangladesh connected electronically will also be allowed to play their due role in the government’s plans to reach middle-income status by 2021 (the fiftieth anniversary of the republic) through actions such as the implementation of Digital Bangladesh. AMTOB is an industry body and he will have to represent the industry. But we are confident that one can represent an industry and also serve the public interest, especially in the context of a rapidly expanding pie.
I was impressed when the ICT Agency made a presentation at a recent conference, that included a detailed response to concerns that Sri Lanka was dropping in international rankings in the ICT space. The presentation included action items that would address weak points and would thus result in improved rankings. e government was central to the design of e Sri Lanka and is perhaps the program area that has absorbed most of the USD 83 million funds. Therefore, the UN e gov rankings are very important. Sadly, the 2010 rankings indicate that Sri Lanka’s position has deteriorated in relative and absolute terms.
ITU said nearly 90 per cent of the world’s population is covered by mobile networks and more than half the rural households have a mobile telephone today. While focusing on Bangladesh, the World Telecommunication/ICT Development Report 2010 further says: Grameenphone’s EDGE network, launched in 2005, covers 98 per cent of the population, so almost every Bangladeshi has potential access to the Internet. Grameenphone has over 4.5 million EDGE subscribers, making the company the largest Internet service provider in the country. The above statement in page 23 of the ITU’s report refers to Grameenphone’s February 11, 2009 press release.
Bangladesh is amending its telecoms law that scraps the operators’ right to appeal. The regulator or the police can register a case, even on suspicion, and arrest any official of any telecom operator without a warrant. The regulator will be the investigator and can decide on any form of punishment. And the operators will not be allowed to have a say if the regulator changes or even scraps the licenses. The proposed amendment is likely to get parliamentary approval next month.