Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Bangladesh - mobile telephony growth

Bangladesh mobile phone users soar 58 percent in 2007: regulator

DHAKA (AFP) — Mobile phone subscriptions in Bangladesh soared by 58 percent in 2007, spurred by a price war among operators, officials said Wednesday.

The country added over one million subscribers a month in 2007 as the total number rose to 34.37 million at the end of the year, up from 21.77 million in 2006, the Bangladesh Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (BTRC) said.

GrameenPhone, 62 percent owned by Norway's Telenor, led with 16.48 million users, while Egyptian Orascom-owned Banglalink edged Telekom Malaysian-owned AKtel for the second spot with 7.08 million, it said.

"Increased demand for mobile phones along with more affordable services led to the growth in the industry," chief executive officer of the GrameenPhone Anders Jensen told AFP.

Total landline and mobile phone penetration in Bangladesh rose to over 20 percent of the population, officials said.

Telephone penetration was only one percent in 1997 when the country's first of three top mobile phone companies including GrameenPhone launched their services.

"Another important reason is the falling prices of low-end handsets, which will also be a key component of future growth," Jensen said.

Operators said the cost of a low-end mobile handset fell by an average 30 percent to 20 to 30 dollars and tariffs dropped by 40 to 50 percent in 2007 amid a price war among six operators, allowing low income people to afford the services.

The telecommunications sector has emerged as a key driver of the economy of Bangladesh, which is one of the world's poorest countries, with nearly 40 per cent of its 144 million population surviving on less than a dollar day.

Bangladesh's army-backed government crackdown on graft coupled with natural disasters have slowed growth, economists and lending agencies say, while the central bank has lowered it growth projection to around six percent from seven percent for the financial year to June 2008.

The country posted record growth of 6.6 percent last year.

The booming mobile phone industry has created nearly 240,000 jobs, a study last year said.

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