Saturday, September 22, 2012

Telecommunications - Business & Industry - Bangladesh Strategic & Development Forum

Telecommunications - Business & Industry - Bangladesh Strategic & Development Forum

Telecommunications in Bangladesh


Fazlur Rahman

Chairman, Multi Media, Dhaka

Historical Background 

The Telegraph branch of the Posts and Telegraph Department was created in 1853 in the then British India, which was afterwards regulated under the Telegraph Act of 1885. This was reconstructed in 1962 as Pakistan Telegraph and Telephone Department. After the independence of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh in 1971, Bangladesh Telegraph and Telephone Department was set up under the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications to run the Telecommunication Services in Bangladesh. This was converted into a corporate body named Bangladesh Telegraph and Telephone Board after promulgation of Bangladesh Telegraph and Telephone Board Ordinance No. XLVII of 1975. In pursuance of Ordinance No. XII of 1979 promulgated on 24th February 1979, Bangladesh Telegraph and Telephone Board was again converted into a Government Board.

Legal Environment and Regulatory Arrangements

Telecommunications Law

The basic statutory framework relating to telecommunication in Bangladesh consists of:

The Telegraph Act of 1885

The Wireless Telegraphy Act of 1933 

The Bangladesh Telegraph and Telephone Board Ordinance of 1979.
The Telegraph Act of 1885 is the primary statute governing Telecommunications in Bangladesh. This Act granted to the Government exclusive powers to establish and maintain all types of telecommunications transmission services and products. The Telegraph Act established other broad privileges and powers of the Government with respect to telecommunications, including right to grant or revoke Licences to private parties; seize licensed facilities and intercept messages in the event of public emergencies; issues rules governing the operations of government or private licensed facilities; and exercise power of compulsory acquisition over public and private property. The Telegraph Act also laid down specific penalties for variety of Offences, including the illegal operations of facilities; unlawful interception of messages; interference or damage to facilities; theft of transmission lines; annoyance or intimidation through the use of telecommunication facilities; bribery and other misconduct by telegraph officers; and transmission of fraudulent or obscene messages.

The Wireless Telegraph Act of 1933 applied primarily to one-way or broadcast services, specifically radio and television (other one-way telecommunication services, such as paging, are authorized under the Telegraph Act). Under Section 3 of the Act, possession of wireless apparatus is prohibited, except under the terms of a Licence. The Wireless Telegraph Act governs the granting of Licences to manufacturers and retailers involved in sale of radio equipment, as well as the licensing of radio and television receivers. Magisterial powers are granted to certain officials to summons. Finally, the Government is authorized to issue regulations to implement the provisions of the Act.

The Bangladesh Telegraph and Telephone Board Ordinance, 1979 . By virtue of the 1979 Ordinance, both the monopoly rights and the power to issue Licences, for both telecommunications and wireless services, were transferred to the BTTB. Section 8 sets out the functions of the Board in very wide terms, including exercise of all powers of the Government under the Telegraph Act 1885, except to make rules under the Act and to determine certain disputes with a Local Authority. The powers of the BTTB are in practice severely circumscribed by the need to obtain Government approval under Section 8(i) and the First Schedule of the Ordinance for its capital and revenue budget, and for many changes in the employment conditions of its workers.

The Bangladesh Telecommunication Act 1999

Increasing participation of Private Sector Operators in the Telecommunication Sector in Bangladesh has made it expedient to provide for the establishment of an independent Commission. A draft Act has been prepared to provide for establishment of an Independent Commission for the purpose of the efficient regulation and development of the telecommunication system in Bangladesh; to provide for the regulation of telecommunication licenses; to deal with the transition and transfer of liabilities and responsibilities from the Ministry of Posts & Telecommunications to the Commission; and for the connected purposes.

The draft Telecommunication Act 1999 is expected to be placed before the National Parliament in the coming weeks.

National Telecom Policy, 1998

Telecommunication Regulatory Commission 

The Strategic Vision of the Telecom Policy is to facilitate Universal Telephone Service throughout Bangladesh and where there is a demand, all those Value Added Services such as Cellular Mobile Telephone, Paging, Data Services, Access to Internet (including electronic mail), Voice Mail, and Video Conferencing – all at an affordable cost without compromising performance.

To achieve the Vision, Government’s role as a service provider will diminish as the private sector’s role increases. The Government’s objective will be to create a new policy environment to support this new scenario. Its ability to create policy, regulate and facilitate will be strengthened through a new Telecommunications Act which reflects the Government’s new policies, objectives and strategies and establishment of new institutions including a Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (TRC) which will become the guardian of the Act and fulfill its regulatory functions.

The Regulatory Commission to be headed by a Chairman, will be formed through a parliamentary act.

The Commission’s main function will be to issue license to private operators, control tariff, regulate technical standard, prepare national numbering scheme, represent international telecommunication organizations and encourage investment in the sector.

The Commission will have an autonomous body and its chairman and other members will be appointed for a certain period.

Broad Policy Objectives

The broad Bangladesh Telecommunication Policy objectives are:

1. to encourage orderly development of telecommunications system that serves to augment and strengthen the social and economic welfare of Bangladesh;

2. to ensure access to and delivery of a full range of reliable. reasonable priced, up to date telecommunications services to as many people as is economically and socially justifiable, both in urban and rural areas, throughout Bangladesh,

3. to enhance the efficiency and competitiveness, at the national and international level of Bangladesh Telecommunications;

4. to rely increasingly on competition and a market oriented regime in the provision of telecommunication services and to ensure that regulation, where required, is efficient and effective,

5. to stimulate research and development in Bangladesh in the field of telecommunications and to encourage innovation in provision of telecommunication services; 

6. to protect the interest and respond to the needs, both social and economic, of users of telecommunication services, 

7. to maintain and promote competition among service providers;

8. to encourage introduction of new services and to encourage major users outside Bangladesh to establish places of business in Bangladesh.

The Government of Bangladesh has plan to increase the number of telephone lines to 1300000 in the country from about 500000 now with in the next two years.

This will raise the ratio of telephone lines to 1:100 from the existing 0.4:100 people.

The policy has emphasized improvement of telecommunications system in the private sector and creation of a competitive environment for expansion and improvement of the services. Foreign investment in the sector will also be encouraged.

The private operators will play a strong role in the sector in future and the Government will provide all necessary cooperation.

Replacement of the analog system with digital system will be made within the year 2005 to improve the services and create confidence among the people.

The ratio of telephone lines will have to be increased to 4:100 people within the year 2010, it said.

Under the long term plan private sector operations will be allowed in all areas of infrastructure development after the year 2010.

The fact that BTTB is a departmental enterprise, combined with its position as an enterprise through which important Government objectives are met, it is unlikely that BTTB can achieve greater autonomy under its current legal and regulatory status.


Organizational Structure of Bangladesh Telegraph & Telephone Board

Bangladesh T & T Board (BTTB) is run as a Government establishment under the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications (MOPT). The Board comprises of 1 (one) Chairman, 4 (four) full time Members and 3 (three) part time Members, all appointed by the Government of Bangladesh.
Telecommunication Services provided by BTTB

Telephone Status

At the end of 1997-98 fiscal year Bangladesh T & T Board had 621 telephone exchanges, with total capacity of 314980 lines and subscriber connection of 286605 lines with registered pending demand of 154037 telephones. BTTB started operating digital local exchanges after installation of six NEC-NEAX model exchanges in the Dhaka Multi Exchange Network in 1990-91 fiscal year with initial capacity of 26000 lines. In 1994-95 five more digital exchanges of ALCATEL E-10 model were installed in Chittagong Multi Exchange area with total capacity of 22000 lines. By the end of 1996, a total of additional 150000 lines of ALCATEL E-10 type exchange were added in the cities of Dhaka, Chittagong, Sylhet, Khulna and Rajshahi.

BTTB Telephone Exchange Status as on 30 June 1997

Pending Demand



Auto (Analog)

Auto (Digital)


Public Telephones

Years back public telephone services were provided through coin boxes in the urban area and landline / wireless Public Call Offices (PCOs) in the rural areas. The services through these public telephones had been far from satisfactory. To improve the public telephone service, Card Phone Service was introduced from later part of 1992 with programmes of replacing the old coin boxes and PCOs. By June 1997, 1283 card phone booths have been installed in different parts of Bangladesh. All card phones have access to nation wide dialing and 635 of them have international direct dialing facility. Due to better and easier public accessibility to telephone the card phone service has attained popularity in Bangladesh. A massive program of installing card phone has been taken to cover all thanas and rural growth centres of the country.
Nation Wide Dialing Services

In 1983 Bangladesh T & T Board installed the National Automatic Long Distance Telephone Dialing System employing NEAX version of NEC exchange to link all major cities of the country. Beforehand there were Subscriber Trunk Dialing (STD) services based on Analog toll switching system to link few cities of the country with Dhaka. By June 1997, 100 stations including all 64-district headquarters and 10 Thana headquarters and 36 thanas were brought under this system. The system primarily consists of 4 digital Trunk Automatic Exchanges having 15384 circuits.

Operators Trunk Dialing (OTD) Service

This service was introduced in all the thanas to get access by direct dialing up to Thana level where there is no automatic telephone exchange. In this system one or two telephone numbers of district automatic telephone exchange are extended upto thana level through UHF radio links. The telephone operator of the manual telephone exchange can through these numbers, connect subscribers of the thana with any subscriber of the other auto exchanges of the country by dialing respective NWD codes.

Transmission System in Bangladesh

Bangladesh is a riverine country and the country’s long route transmission systems are mainly composed of microwave, UHF and VHF radio links. The use of optical fibre is presently limited within some city areas for interconnecting local exchange and Remote Switching Units (RSU) in Multi Exchange Network. All these transmission systems are operated by BTTB.

All Thana headquarters (the smallest administrative units) are connected with their respective districts through UHF links. Most of such UHF links are now digital radio system. Some of the district headquarters are connected through digital UHF links.

The major backbone transmission links in Bangladesh are presently using star formation network structure. BTTB has planned to improve the quality and quantity of the long distance transmission network. Some of the proposed transmission routes will introduce mesh formation in some areas of backbone transmission networks, and this will make better system reliability within the respective mesh interlink. Introduction of SDH multiplexing principle in place of present PDH arrangement is also under active consideration in the expansion programme and rehabilitation of backbone telecommunication transmission systems. The most important expansion and rehabilitation programme being taken up is the laying of 12 core Optical Fibre Cable between Dhaka and Chittagong, which is the busiest route and still analogue.

Amongst the Private Operators, BRTA have established a Microwave link between Dhaka and Sylhet.

The most extensive transmission network is being established by Grameen Phone, who are upgrading the Fiber Optic Cable Network of Bangladesh Railway, available along the Railway route all over Bangladesh. Grameen Phone is also establishing a 140 Mbit/s Microwave link between Khulna and Chittagong via Barisal.

Major Backbone Microwave Links of BTTB (June 1997)

Radio Channel Capacity

Dhaka – Chittagong

Dhaka – Magura – Khulna

Dhaka – Sylhet

Dhaka – Tangail – Mymensingh

Dhaka – Tangail – Mymensing

Dhaka – Tangail – Bogra

Dhaka – Natore – Rajshahi

Rajshahi - Natore – Chuadanga

Bogra – Phulbari – Thakurgaon

Bogra -Phulbari Rangpur

Khulna - Barisal
JRC (Met)

Chittagong – Cox’s Bazar

Chittagong – Cox’s Bazar
JRC (Met)

Chittagong – Betbunia - Rangamati

International Telecommunication Facilities

Bangladesh entered into the era of modern telecommunication facility after commissioning of a Standard A Satellite Earth Station in 1975 at Betbunia to work with INTELSAT system. The international telecommunication facilities has become more easier and versatile after installation of Standard B Satellite Station at Talibabad to work with INTELSAT system. BTTB introduced International Subscriber Dialing (ISD) facility in December 1983 after installation of a digital International Trunk Exchange (ITX) at Dhaka Subscribers with ISD facility can directly dial to over 200 countries of the world. Other subscribers can easily establish overseas telephone call through Operator via the ITX by booking overseas call. Most of the telephone calls from abroad can reach any district head quarters of Bangladesh through the ITX without any operator’s help. After introduction of Operator Trunk Dialing (OTD) service in every thana headquarters and at some rural growth centres people from abroad can reach local operator by direct dialing and then can easily establish telephone calls with rural subscribers even through a manual terminal exchange. At present there are arrangements of ISD calls many district headquarters. After introduction of magnetic cardphones with ISD facility at many places of the country, accessibility of people for making ISD calls have increased enormously. The third Satellite Earth Station along with an International Trunk Exchange (ITX) was commissioned in 1994 at Mohakhali in Dhaka. Another direct Satellite link was commissioned in between Sylhet and London since June 1995. BTTB’s overseas transmission routes are mostly dependent on these 4 satellite earth stations working with INTELSAT Satellites in IOR. These stations are characterized as follows:

Earth StationBetbunia


FDM / FM and IDR

60  E - IOR




60  E - IOR




66  E - IOR




63  E - IOR

Beside these satellite links there is an overseas terrestrial microwave (analogue) route with India having 60 channels capacity to work between Dhaka and Calcutta.

International Switching Centre

At present BTTB has three international switching centres (ISC) of which two are located at Moghbazar and one at Mohakhali in Dhaka City. ISCs of Moghbazar are of type NEAX-61K and NEAX –61E and ISC of Mohakhali is NEAX – 61 E type.

International Maritime Satellite Communication

INTELSAT Satellite links fixed Earth Stations for overseas communication while INMARSAT (International Maritime Satellite Communication) provide mobile communication services for ships and aircrafts. Recent development of portable terminal has made it possible for customers to take advantage of INMARSAT service from remote locations also. BTTB had, by June 1997, five INMARSAT - A terminals operating through LES Land Earth Station) located in Jeddah.

International VSAT Service

Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT) – A small earth station having dish antenna of typically 0.6 to 2.4 meters in diameter is designed to handle voice, data and private line video communication. Terminal is located at each end and communication is established through geostationary satellite (in this region ASIASAT). As a satellite based solution, VSATs are small and easy to install. A VSAT network can be expanded or modified as a users business needs change and grow. Banks, insurance companies, news bureaus, educational institutions all those and more can be linked across continent. VSAT is allowed to communicate only incorporate data communication and cannot be terminated to any public switched telephone network.

To facilitate high-speed point to point data communication facility throughout the world for the subscriber, BTTB took necessary steps in 1996 to install VSAT in Bangladesh. BTTB made an agreement with Pak Datacom to install and operate VSAT in Bangladesh on 5 year BOT (Build, Operate & Transfer) basis. Under this arrangement Pak Datacom will supply, install, operate and maintain VSAT in Bangladesh on behalf of BTTB. By June 1997, five subscribers were given VSAT data based circuits. Subscribers are charged a fixed monthly rent for each VSAT circuit.


Growth of Telephone in Bangladesh

The growth of telephone exchange capacity was restricted due to non availability of necessary investment for the Government resource and the demand was artificially managed / restricted by raising the installation charge and thereby making it unaffordable by the ordinary people. The growth of telephone were as follows:


Number of Exchange

Exchange Capacity

Telephone Connection

Pending Demand


























Digital Telephone Lines installation programme under BTTB

Bangladesh has plan to raise its telephone capacity to at least 1000000 lines by the year 2000. The ongoing BTTB expansion programme is as follows:

Name of Programme

Telephone Exchange Capacity



1. 200000 lines digital telephone project (Bond Financing, ALCATEL E 10B Exchange)




2. Installation of 39000 lines in Chittagong (French Protocol, ALCATEL E 10B)




3. SADE Programme for 7 district headquarters (Italtel Linea UT Exchange)




4. Greater Dhaka (Phase – II) telephone project (OECF fund,
    Ericssion AXE – 10 Model)




5. 140000 lines digital telephone lines at different district headquarters (Chinese   
   suppliers credit)




6. Emergency Expansion of 6 NEC Digital exchanges in Dhaka


7. Installation of 2000 line digital exchange at Feni (Italtel Linea UT Exchange)




8. Installation of digital exchange at Narayanganj and Sirajganj under RR 
   Program  (Italtel Lines UT Model)




9. Installation of digital exchange at Chapai Nawabganj, Naogaon & Thakurgaon




Privatization of Telecommunication Services

The Telecom sector of Bangladesh has been liberalized for private investment. Bangladesh T & T Board all types of telecommunication service in urban and rural areas. Private operators offer the mobile, paging and the radio trunking services. Private operators are also given license to operate digital exchanges at rural Thana headquarters.

Private Telecommunication Operators in Bangladesh

1. Pacific Bangladesh Telecom Limited (PBTL)
   (Cellular Radio Telephone Service)

2. Bangladesh Telecom (Pvt.) Limited (BTL)
   (Radio Paging, Radio Trunking and Riverine Telecommunication Services)

3. Bangladesh Rural Telecom Authority (BRTA)
    (Rural Telecom Service at 200 Thana)

4. Sheba Telecom Limited
    (Rural Telecom Service at 199 Thana)

5. Grameen Phone Consortium
    (Grameen Phone,
    Digital Cellular Mobile Radio Telephone Services)

6. TM International (Bangladesh), TMIB
    (Digital Cellular Mobile Radio Telephone Services)

7. Sheba Telecom Limited
    (Digital Cellular Mobile Radio Telephone Services)

Rural Telecommunication

The responsibility of providing Rural Telecommunication was entrusted to two Private Operators i.e. Bangladesh Rural Telecommunication Authority (BRTA) & Sheba Telecom; and for the area of Bangladesh was more or less devided into two equal parts between the two Operators. Unfortunately, the success of these two operators were limited and even after about 7 to 9 years of operation, the coverage have been very inadequate and quality had been poor. Inadequacy of interconnection facility between BTTB network and the network of the private operators played a major role for this state of affairs. The technical and the financial limitations of the operator were also there. The absence of an Independent Regulatory Body have been identified as an impediment for the solution for furthering development of telecommunication in Bangladesh.

Cellular Telecommunication

Cellular Mobile Telephone Service was started by Pacific Bangladesh Telecom Limited (PBTL) since 1989 with AMPS system. Recently they have sifted to CDMA technology.

The other three Operators Grameen Phone Limited (GP), TM International (Bangladesh) [TMIB] and Sheba Telecom are providing Cellular service with GSM technology.

Transmission Network for Private Operators

The Rural Operators have tried to use BTTB’s transmission network wherever possible. BRTA has constructed their own Microwave link in Dhaka – Sylhet route.

Use of Railway Fibre Optic network for Cellular Service

Bangladesh Railway had a Fibre Optic Cable Netwok along its Railway Track covering extensive area of Bangladesh. Grameen Phone Limited (GP) have taken this cable on lease and upgraded it. This has provided GP an almost ready made transmission network all over Bangladesh and helped GP to extend their service along the railway route. GP is installing a 140Mbit/s Microwave link between Khulna and Chittagong (Khulna – Bagerhat – Kaukhali – Barisal – Bhola – Char Algi – Char Akramuddin – Swandip – Chittagang). As a result GP shall soon be having a digital ring network between Dhaka – Chittagong – Khulna. Further GP is extending the network in the rural area along these routes.

The other Cellular Operators have plans to construct their own Microwave Link, initially along the Dhaka – Chittagong highway. 
Bangladesh Strategic & Development Forum

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of journalism, politics, human rights, democracy, social justice and other issues of concern to the public. We believe this constitutes a 'fair dealing' and 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Part III Section 29 of the Canada Copyright Law and section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with the sections titled 'Acts Undertaken Without Motive of Gain' (Canada) and Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 (U.S.), the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair dealing' and 'fair use,' you must obtain prior permission from the copyright owner.


  1. I am living in London (uk) But mostly I use to call Bangladesh for my personal as well as for business purpose. So can anyone suggest me how to make call Bangladesh , It would be help full for me.

  2. When someone writes an post he/she retains the plan of
    a user in his/her mind that how a user can understand
    it. Thus that's why this paragraph is amazing. Thanks!
    Also visit my webpage : GFI Norte

  3. Υοuг cuгrent wгite-up feаtures
    сonfirmeԁ helpful to me perѕonally.

    It’ѕ quite useful and you are naturally extгemеly knoωledgeаble in this arеа.
    You get opened up my ρersonal eyeѕ to ѵarying views οn thiѕ kind оf matteг tοgether ωith іntrіquing, nοtable and sounԁ
    ωritten cоntent.

    Looκ intο my blοg post: Xenical
    Also visit my blog post - Xenical

  4. Have you ever considered about including a little bit more than just
    your articles? I mean, what you say is fundamental and all.
    However just imagine if you added some great images or video clips
    to give your posts more, "pop"! Your content is excellent but
    with images and video clips, this site could undeniably be one of the greatest in its
    niche. Superb blog!

    My weblog ...

  5. Please tell me that youre heading to keep this up! Its so great and so important. I cant wait to read a lot more from you. I just feel like you know so substantially and know how to make people listen to what you might have to say. This blog is just too cool to become missed. Terrific stuff, genuinely. Please, PLEASE keep it up!

  6. Hi the information on this blog is just amazing it keeps me coming back time and time again ,personally i met my wife using this site so i couldnt like it any more i have done my best to promote this blog as i know that others need to read this thing ,Thanks for all your effort spent in making this fabulous resource ! ok,nice one Jake

  7. This design is incredible! most certainly know how to keep a reader entertained. Between your wit and your videos, I was almost moved to start my own blog (well, almost...HaHa!) Great job. I really enjoyed what you had to say, and more than that, how you presented it. Too cool!


Thanks for visiting.