Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) says the mobile operator Grameenphone has provided internet services to Sonali Bank, which is a violation of the country’s telecom rules. Grameenphone deployed fiber optic cables to provide digital connectivity and provide online transactions of the Sonali bank, which the regulator noted as against the licensing rights given to the Grameenphone and termed the network as illegal.
As per the country’s telecom regulations, mobile operators are allowed to provide internet services only through mobile devices and modems. Fixed-line networks are not allowed to be handled by mobile operators, except for the support of their wireless stations. BTRC has the right to ask Grameenphone to discontinue the service. There is a chance that the mobile operator will be fined for its action. BTRC’s action will have implications on the mobile service provider’s financial status this year. Prior to that action, BTRC will ask the operator to explain.
The network solutions were provided to the state-run bank through Go Broadband, which is a high-speed internet service brought by Agni Systems and ADN Telecom in partnership with Grameenphone. BTRC does not find any immediate violation of rules with Agni or ADN but the sources in BTRC said they may issue warning letters to both Agni and ADN.
BTRC said that Grameenphone and Sonali Bank reached an agreement and the contract was signed to build fiber optic network that will provide end to end fiber connectivity in December 2014. As per existing regulations, mobile operators are allowed to deploy cables to support their wireless operations in the country. Bangladesh had identified and limited the scope of activities for each service in the telecom sector mainly in an attempt to simplify administration and ensure fair competition by reducing monopoly approaches by giant operators.
Current rules do not permit a mobile operator to deploy fiber optic cables for other customers. BTRC said Grameenphone has connected 551 remote branches of Sonali Bank under the GO Broadband service. Grameenphone is not supposed to be involved in internet business except for the mobile internet. By Deploying fiber optic cables and involving Agni Systems and ADN Telecom, Grameenphone had adopted a kind of internet service provider business, which the regulator consider as a violation of licensed activities.
Grameenphone said they are yet to receive official feedback from BTRC and will respond when they have clarity on why the BTRC approval has allegedly been rescinded. While giving the approval to Go Broadband in 2013, the regulator had said only Agni Systems and ADN Telecom would provide the Wi-Max service. Grameenphone was only allowed to share its passive infrastructures like office spaces and marketing channels for the service.
The issue came to the fore after Internet Service Providers’ Association of Bangladesh or ISPAB in a written complaint told the regulator that GO Broadband is providing fiber optic connections to some banks.
According to the telecom regulations set by BTRC, ISPs are allowed to offer connectivity to users such as banks, but for doing so they have to be connected via fiber optic cables of Nationwide Telecommunication Transmission Network (NTTN) operators. But no ISPs or NTTN operators were involved in the agreement between Grameenphone and Sonali Bank.
After getting the complaint from the ISPAB, the BTRC sought clarification from Grameenphone. But BTRC was not satisfied with Grameenphone’s reply. Grameenphone said it has established a fiber optic connection of about 500,000 kilometers for the 551 branches of Sonali Bank throughout the country. BTRC described Grameenphone’s fiber optic network for Sonali Bank as “the largest illegal telecom network” in the country’s history.