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History of telecommunication industry of Bangladesh

History of telecommunication industry of Bangladesh

The telecommunication industry of Bangladesh did not grow up within overnight. BRTC is the key player here to give license to different cellular companies. The first move for the growth of the industry was the start of Citycell. The company played a vital role in the growth of the industry. Moving on next GrameenPhone entered into the market which braked down the monopoly business done by Citycell. After the 21st century Airtel, Robi, and Teletalk played a big role in the growth of the industry. Let’s know how cellular companies entered the market and played their roles for the growth of the industry. In this article, you will get full details of ‘History of telecommunication industry of Bangladesh’.

History of Telecommunication industry of Bangladesh

It’s not many years when we used to communicate with our kith and kin via telegraph and letter. Even at the beginning of the 20th century, we used to communicate with people via letters. However, now the time has changed. Now almost every single person is an adult has at least one mobile phone at hand. Communication is now very convenient for the people of Bangladesh. However, at the beginning of 20th-century wives of our country used to write letters to their husbands residing outside of the country for job purposes.

Right now in our country, five telecommunication companies (cellular) are operating business. One of them is Government Company and the rest of the companies’ are private companies. The cellular companies operating telecommunication services in Bangladesh right now are –

  1. GrameenPhone
  2. Banglalink
  3. Robi
  4. Airtel
  5. Teletalk

Before knowing about the cellular phone companies let’s get a brief idea about BRTC which provides the cellular phone companies license and monitors their activities.


BRTC (Bangladesh Telecommunications Company Limited) is the largest telecommunications company in Bangladesh which was earlier known as BTTB (Bangladesh Telegraph and Telephone Board). The company was reconstructed many times between the years of 1971 to 1979. In 1979 the company was reconstructed as BTTB and given authority to issue the license for telecom and wireless services. The company was renamed as BTCL on 1st of July after making it a private limited company. At that time the company was owned by Bangladesh Government. However, later the shares were sold to the public.

BRTC provides mainly telephone services all over Bangladesh as well as internet services. It had the monopoly market all over Bangladesh till 2007 although many private companies got PSTN licenses in 2004. However, the drawback of the companies at that time was that they could only provide service in Dhaka area. One thing needed to be added here is that BTRC was given right to issue a license for telecom and wireless services by the government in 1979. Thus, ultimately the company got the power to give license and suspend it as well to telecom and wireless providers of Bangladesh. Considering the issue the fact is that BRTC has great Impact to assure the growth of the Telecommunication industry of Bangladesh. Let’s know about the telecommunication companies and their role to grow the mobile industry in Bangladesh.


If we now consider the cellular companies of Bangladesh then the oldest mobile operator of Bangladesh is Citycell. The company was founded in 1989. Bangladesh Telecom Limited was given license in 1989 for operating cellular and wireless communication in Bangladesh. In the very next year, BTL and Hutchison Telecommunications (Bangladesh) Limited made a joint venture named as HBTL. The second cellular operator of South Asia, HBTL started its operation in Dhaka in 1993. Pacific Motors bought the 50% share of BTL in that year. In 1996 HBTL has been renamed as BPTL. Then the brand Citycell Digital was launched. In the next few years, the company grew in Bangladeshi market rigorously. However, because of some orthodox thinking, the company could not grow and compete with other cellular companies introduced in Bangladesh in the 21st century. In 2016 the mobile operator company became bankrupted and BTRC suspended its license. Hence, the first ever cellular company of Bangladesh ended up its journey with bankruptcy.

Citycell logo by techt20.com

Role of Citycell for the growth of mobile industry of Bangladesh

Citycell was not only just a cellular company providing the mobile network to the people of Bangladesh to communicate with each other but it had its own mobile sets. The mobile sets of Citycell were only being used using its SIM. When Citycell came up with cellular service the Bangladeshi people had not that many options to use mobile phones of Nokia, Samsung and so forth. Thus, Citycell mobile sets availability helps people conveniently communicate with their relatives taking Citycell mobile connection. The company helped the telecommunication industry grow not only providing cellular connection but also delivering mobiles set helped the mobile industry grow fast. The excellent work went on till its bankruptcy.

Even the internet connection provided by the company using Zoom Ultra was a great initiative which helped people of Bangladesh use the internet connection from anywhere of the country. At that time the broadband internet connection was not available in urban and rural areas except Dhaka metropolitan city. The using Zoom Ultra people could run their online business, communicate with their friends and families from anywhere in Bangladesh.


The mobile operator company which is leading the market is GrameenPhone. It was given license to operate business in 1996. The company has been leading the market with 46.3% market share (the year 2018). It is also a joint venture between Telenor, owning 55.8% share of GP is a company from Norway and Grameen Telecom Corporation. Grameen Telecom Corporation has 34.2% share of GP and rest is publicly held. The motive to establish the company was nothing but providing universal mobile phone access all over Bangladesh. Mr. Iqbal Quadir worked in an investment bank of the United States, got motivated by the micro-credit model of Grameen-Bank and depicted a business model where showed that a cell phone can serve as a source of income. After convincing philanthropist, Joshua Mailman Mr. Quadir worked hard to convince and get support from Telenor and Grameen Bank and finally got support for the giant two companies. After getting a license on 28th November 1996 the company GrameenPhone started its operations on 26 March 1997. GrameenPhone is the first ever operator of Bangladesh which got a million subscribers milestone. Moreover, considering ten million subscribers the company reached its first among its competitors. In addition, GSM technology was first introduced by GrameenPhone and almost 99% cellular network was being covered all over Bangladesh by the company. To make a match with the partner company Telenor’s logo GrameenPhone changed its logo on November 16th, 2006.

Grameenphone logo by techt20.com

The company is the first mobile operator which offered prepaid connection to its subscribers. It has a postpaid service for its customers well. Considering mobile internet services GrameenPhone is the first company which offered 3G and 4G service to its subscribers. It is the most profitable mobile operator company in Bangladesh. The company has invested more than US$3.27 billion in Bangladesh to build the network infrastructure from the beginning of its journey to till date (the Year 2018). It has over 8000 base station, the largest cellular network in Bangladesh, resulting in coverage of 99 percent of the total population in its coverage area.

NB: GrameenPhone numbers start with +880 17 XXXXXXXX and +880 13 XXXXXXXX. Here 880 is the ISD code for Bangladesh required only if anyone dials from outside of Bangladesh.

Official Grameenphone website: www.Grameenphone.com

Role of GrameenPhone for the growth of mobile industry of Bangladesh

No other company has as much role as Grameenphone to grow the market of Bangladesh mobile market. The company has the largest numbers of subscribers in Bangladesh assuring the more numbers of mobile sets, both featured phones and smartphones, available to the people. The reason for having the largest numbers of subscribers of the company is its strong network all over Bangladesh. Anyone living in Rangamati or Tecnap or any remote area of Bangladesh perhaps could not get mobile network but gets GrameenPhone networks which ultimately encourages people to be its subscribers. Without a strong network of GrameenPhone, the cellular industry would not grow so frequently. If the industry would not grow then the luxurious iPhone or Samsung sets would be meaningless to the people of Bangladesh. In fact, because of the strong network of the company, mobile phone companies such as Apple, Samsung, Xiaomi, Symphony, HTC, OPPO, VIVO and so on and so forth could grow and grab the market of Bangladesh so quickly. You perhaps have iPhone X, iPhone XS, Samsung Galaxy S10, Galaxy S10 Plus and so forth luxurious phones but without the network of GrameenPhone in a remote place where GP network is only available, your phone is dead.

Considering the internet connection, GrameenPhone provides the strongest internets connection in mobile sets – it does not matter where one is using iPhone 5, Xiaomi MI band 4. GrameenPhone internet speed inspires people use GrameenPhone SIM in their mobile sets. Hence, it is true that without the strong network of GrameenPhone our mobile industry would not grow so quickly.

Grameenphone even at times makes liaison with different mobile phone companies to help them grab market of Bangladesh when the Mobile Phone Companies introduce their new smartphones modes. For instance, iPhone 6 was introduced by GrameenPhone in the market of Bangladesh after its international launch.


In the year 1996, the Telecom Malaysia International Bangladesh got the cellular mobile license in Bangladesh. This is the second largest mobile operator company in Bangladesh which is a joint venture between Axiata Group Berhad, Bharti Airtel Limited and NTT DoCoMo. The largest portion of the share of the company is being held by Axiata Group Berhad. With the name AKTEL, the company started its operation in 1997. At that time the company was known as Telecom Malaysia International. After re-branding in 2010, the AKTEL was renamed as Robi and the company was renamed as Robi Axiata Limited. Robi Axita has another independent brand which is Airtel.

robi logo by techt20.com

Robi Axiata had faced a change in 2008 when AK Khan and Company exited the business selling out its share to NTT Docomo. However, in 2013 Axiata owned 92% share of the company since NTT Docomo sold out its large portion of share to Axiata. Since November 2016 Robi Axiata and Airtel Bangladesh have been serving almost 40 million subscribers by merging between them. Robi has been serving its customers with GPRS 3.5G and 4.5G mobile internet services and so on and so forth.

NB: Robi numbers start with +880 18 XXXXXXXX

Official Robi website: www.Robi.com.bd

Role of Robi for the growth of mobile industry of Bangladesh

Once the service of AKTEL (now Robi) was disastrous. The users of AKTEL were not satisfied whatsoever. However, after the change of ownership and name of the brand from AKTEL to Robi the services of the company has got the improvement. The customers also have got their satisfaction level very high. The company started its journey when Citycell was doing monopoly business in Bangladesh. Thus, a new choice was opened to people when Robi entered into the market. Moreover, at the beginning of 21st century Robi plaid vital role to grow up the mobile market and cellular market along with GrameenPhone. If the two companies were not present at that time then people would have to use only Citycell SIMs and Citycell mobile sets. Hence, the mobile market in Bangladesh would not grow fast. Now, people can use Xiaomi, Symphony, iPhone, Vivo, Oppo, Walton, HTC, Micromax and so on and so forth mobile sets which would not be possible without the presence of Robi and GrameenPhone. The two companies SIMs could be used in any mobile sets which could not be possible for those who used Citycell. So, Robi along with GrameenPhone has given people the option to use any mobile sets of any company using their SIM cards which helped the mobile market of Bangladesh to grow quickly.


Banglalink is now the third largest cellular mobile operator company in Bangladesh. The journey of the company began with the name Sheba Telecom in 1989. In 2005 Egypt based company Orascom acquired the company. In 1996 the company got the GSM license to extend business to cellular mobile and radiotelephone service. The cellular operation of the company started in 1997. After many ups and downs, Orascom Telecom owned the 100% share of the Sheba Telecon in 2004. Later in 2008 Sheba telecom was renamed as Orascom Telecom Bangladesh Limited. Later in 2013, the company was renamed as Banglalink Digital Communications Ltd. The company offers different mobile packages to its subscribers. Considering prepaid packages it offers the subscribers Desh and desh rang. Ek Desh Ek Rate is a very popular slogan of Desh package. In past, it offered ladies, first for women of Bangladesh with the slogan Shomporker Network. Moreover, the postpaid connection is also offered by Banglalink to its subscribers. For the business community, the mobile operator company offers Banglalink Enterprise with humongous facilities. The current packages of Banglalink Enterprise are Enterprise Corporate, Enterprise SME and Enterprise Personal.  Besides, it offers 3G, 4G and so on and so forth services to its subscribers.

NB: Banglalink numbers start with +880 19 XXXXXXXX and +880 14 XXXXXXXX

Official Banglalink website: www.Banglalink.net

Banglalink logo by techt20.com

Role of Banglalink for the growth of mobile industry of Bangladesh

The cellular market was a monopoly market for two cellular companies. One was GrameenPhone and another one was Robi (AKTEL). The companies had very high call rates per minutes which let people not to use mobile phones. However, with the introduction of Banglalink in the market of Bangladesh with low call rate, the two other companies had to reduce their call rate to compete with Banglalink. Hence, people not using mobile phones for high call rates started buying mobile phones which helped the mobile industry grow faster.


Government-owned only mobile operator company of Bangladesh is Teletalk. The company name is Teletalk Bangladesh limited which started its journey in 2004.  According to the information of Government in August 2016, Teletalk reached 2.925 million subscribers. The slogan of the brand is “Amader Phone.” One of the main objectives to establish the company by Government is mainly to make a fair competition between public and private sectors assuring the safety of public interest. Teletalk has already expanded its network in all over Bangladesh in 64 districts and 402 Upozillas. The company is trying its best to ensure its reach at every corner of Bangladesh with its network. It provides 4G mobile internet connection to its users for internet service.

Teletalk logo by techt20.com

Because of the presence of a government-owned cellular phone private cellular phones cannot abuse their call rate, internet packages and so on and so forth. Hence, it is undoubtedly true that the presence of Teletalk is indirectly helping serve the right of people. Moreover, monitoring power of BTRC is also protecting people of Bangladesh not to face any monopoly done by any private cellular service providers.

NB: Teletalk numbers start with +880 15 XXXXXXXX

Official Teletalk website: www.Teletalk.com.bd

Role of Teletalk in Bangladeshi Market

Monopoly business of the private cellular companies was not that much dominative because of the introduction of Teletalk in the market. When the company was introduced the call rate of GrameenPhone, Citycell and Robi (AKTEL) were 7tk to 10tk per minute. Due to the introduction and law call rate of  Teletalk the competitor companies had to reduce their call rates. Moreover, people started buying and using a mobile phone after the introduction of Teletalk. The company still has an impact to grow the mobile market of Bangladesh. Still, anyone tries for government universities and college admission complete their application process using Teletalk. So, the mobile market is growing up even because of the cellular company.


In 2005 BRTC gave the license to Warid to run its GSM operation in Bangladesh. An Abu Dhabi based consortium and Warid Telecom International LLC paid US$ 50 million to BRTC to get the license and it was the sixth mobile operator company targeted the youth of Bangladesh offering low mobile rate which attracted a large portion of youth population to be the regular subscriber of the mobile operator. Nowadays they provide various bundle offer depend on all mobile phone price in Bangladesh which is sponsored by them. The soft launch of the mobile operator company was January 2007 and in July 2007 it crossed 1 million customers which were a great achievement for the company. Within June 10, 2008 Warid covered 61 districts with its broad network. However, in 2010 Bharti Airtel Limited bought the majority share of the company for US$300 million. Thus, Bharti Airtel Limited rebranded the company as Airtel. In January 2016 Robi and Airtel announced to merge their operation and serve 32 million subscribers. After fulfilling all the formalities they started to merge in November 2016. The maximum shares are held by Axiata Group which is 68.7%.

NB: Airtel numbers start with +880 16 XXXXXXXX

airtel logo by techt20.com

Role of Airtel for the growth of mobile industry of Bangladesh

Airtel which was introduced as Warid at its launch of Bangladesh has a great impact to grow the cellular industry and mobile industry of Bangladesh. When the company was introduced in the market of Bangladesh it offered free calls for night time to the young people. The youths of our country ultimately got accustomed to using mobile phones because of the benefits offered by Airtel (Warid). Its different lucrative offers attracted the people not using a mobile phone because of the extreme call rate and let them buy mobile sets for them to communicate. Thus, the number of mobile users in percentage grew up because of the cellular phone company’s offers. It ultimately helped grow the mobile industry of Bangladesh quickly which is why mobile phone companies get interested in Bangladeshi market.

Read more: Mobile phone history of Bangladesh

There is no doubt that every cellular company has played imperative roles in the growth of the mobile industry in Bangladesh. Some perhaps went out of the market is unable to compete in the market. Hope in future new cellular companies will enter into the market and make the market stronger. So we hope our ‘History of telecommunication industry of Bangladesh’ topics answered your every query. If you want to know another new topic to please commenting below with your topics ideas.

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