DHAKA (AFP) – The number of subscribers of Bangladesh’s leading mobile phone firm jumped by a record 55 percent in the first six months of the year to hit 8.5 million.
GrameenPhone, a unit of Norwegian telecom company Telenor, said it added three million subscribers since January, making it the fastest-growing mobile phone company in the impoverished South Asian country.
“It is a humbling experience,” said Erik Aas, managing director of GrameenPhone in a statement, adding network quality, affordable prices and increased nationwide coverage propelled the fast expansion.
Launched in 1997, GrameenPhone took over six year to sign up its first one million subscribers but since late 2003 its customer base has leapt.
The company said it invested aggressively in network coverage, adding 1,000 new base transmission stations during the first six months, bringing the total to more than 4,500 around the country.
GrameenPhone now has more than 60 percent of the country’s 14-million-plus mobile phone users. Its network coverage has been extended to nearly 90 percent of Bangladesh’s 140 million population.
The company last year said it had invested around 300 million dollars to boost its network coverage and increase market share.
The rest of the market is shared by the privately-owned AKTel, a subsidiary of Telekom Malaysia, Egypt’s Orascom and SingTel-owned Pacific Bangladesh Telecom Ltd. The fifth operator is state-owned Teletalk Bangladesh.
A sixth operator, Warid Telecom International (LLC) of the United Arab Emirates, is set to start operations in Bangladesh soon.
Bangladesh is one of the world’s poorest nations with nearly half of its 140 million population surviving on less than a dollar day.
But its booming mobile phone industry has emerged as a key driver of the cash-strapped nation’s economy, creating a total of nearly 240,000 jobs and adding 650 million dollars annually to gross domestic product (GDP), a study said in May.