DHAKA, Sept. 29 -- Bangladesh's biggest cell phone operator Grameenphone Sunday announced the opening of its 3G network in capital Dhaka, marking the beginning of the previously announced national roll-out of third-generation services. 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 on Sunday a few weeks after its acquisition of 3G spectrums.
Banglaesh'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 the cell phone operator, which has coverage all over the South Asian countries and over 44 million subscribers, will shortly expand 3G services around the country.
"I would like to thank Grameenphone for taking initiative to rollout 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 will be used by its employees and some selected customers, who are expected to give valuable feedback ahead of the commercial launch, Grameenphone said in a statement.
As previously announced, Grameenphone said it plans to launch commercial 3G-services by early October for selected areas of Dhaka and Chittagong.
All divisional cities will be covered by December 2013, while the 64 district towns will be covered by the end of 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. With 3G, he said Grameenphone is taking an important step in its mission to help the country move ahead by providing the opportunities of Internet access for all Bangladeshis.
"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, Sunday acquired 10 MHz of 3G spectrum at the price of 210 million US dollars 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 price of 105 million US dollars.
Grameenphone said the spectrum, which is part of the 2100 MHz- band, will enable the rollout 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 Bangladeshi Muhammad Yunus.