Why we should care about mobile tower business

| Updated: October 19, 2017 14:38:58

Why we should care about mobile tower business

In a bid to tackle the spread of mobile towers and bring an organised shape in the business, Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) has drawn up a policy to give licenses to two independent local companies to build and manage passive network infrastructure of all Mobile Network Operators (MNO).
In a time when the number of towers across the country is soaring, the porposed policy will bring a structure to the sector. In addition, it will ensure optimum use of land and power resources when the two new companies come into business.
Over the last decade, with the increasing number of mobile users and the service expansion of companies to provide their subscribers quality services, mobile towers have been set up inconsiderately posing threat to the environment, and wiping out national resources. The radio-frequency which the mobile tower antennas emit is a serious threat to the environment as well as human health. And the telecom regulator intends to cut down the radiation and use of resources through allowing only two companies to run the business.
Not only that, if two companies manage the towers of all operators, it will help the operators cut down their expenses and focus their energy towards improving the quality of services. And when these new companies come in the business, the government will get licensing fees, revenue sharing and tax from the new companies. This will help achieve higher economies of scale and promote healthy competition by reducing the entry-cost for new entrants in addition to reducing the wastage of land.
That is why the draft guideline which BTRC has prepared for Mobile Tower Business strictly bars telecom operators and WIMAX (Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access) companies from applying for the license. The guideline, which is waiting for approval at the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunication, also states that any subsidised/owned/shareholder companies of mobile network operators or any person in the board of director of those companies cannot apply for tower business license.
As per the guideline, any local entity is eligible to apply for the license, and they may have NRB (Non Resident Bangladeshi) or foreign entity as partners. However, no foreign company or consortium of NRB is eligible to apply for the license without taking a Bangladeshi company as its partner. Even if any foreign entity applies for the license together with a local company, the local entity has to hold at least 51 per cent shares limiting the foreign entity to maximum 49 per cent. This clause will boost local investment in the sector, as the foreign partner or NRB partner will have to invest in foreign currency without taking any kind of financial assistance from any Bangladeshi bank or financial institutions.
When approved, this guideline will create a cost-effective platform for home-grown companies in addition from ensuring participation and growth of local companies in telecom sector. Giving license to Bangladeshi companies will also ensure maximum transparency and accountability as they are bound to follow all local rules and regulations. The policy also makes sure that the government earns its due revenue and more importantly, the money stays in Bangladesh if local companies get license.
Similarly, these new independent tower companies will take charge of all towers of the telecom operators which will cut down their operational costs and let them focus more on their core services. It will also alleviate the pressure of network rollout and cost management from mobile operators fostering a customer-centric telecom industry.
When the new companies get licenses, they will ensure resource utilisation cutting down the overuse of land, electricity and human resources. In many counties mobile operators share their towers, but that practice could not bring result in Bangladesh despite the BTRC's efforts. However, when the draft regulation gets passed it will solve the existing problems and facilitate the whole sector.
This guideline will not only save environment and land, but also it will help both government and the mobile operators. And there will not be too many new towers popping out every now and then in agriculture lands or on building rooftops.
The writer is a Doctorate Research Assistant at University of Hull, UK.
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