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Russian phone carrier to invest $350m in Banglalink

BanglalinkVimpelCom, the majority shareholder of Banglalink, will invest around $350 million in the next two years to build the 3G network of the local mobile operator, a top official said yesterday (31 March 2014).

“We want to take a leading role for developing an ecosystem for the telecom sector in the country. So we are committed to investing here,??? said Jo Lunder, chief executive of VimpelCom, a Russian phone carrier.

The new investment will also ensure better services, he told The Daily Star in an interview at Ruposhi Bangla Hotel in Dhaka.

VimpelCom, headquartered in Amsterdam, has invested around $600 million in Banglalink since 2011 when it acquired a majority stake in Orascom Telecom, the former owning company of the local operator, according to Lunder. He came to Dhaka on Monday on a two-day visit.

Banglalink acquired 5 MHz of spectrum at a price of $105 million last year and has so far got a good response from customers on its 3G services, said the operator’s Chief Executive Officer Ziad Shatara.

The operator has completed setting up 3G network in all the divisional cities and has a plan to bring all the districts under 3G coverage by June, Shatara said.

Banglalink is fully owned by Cairo-based Global Telecom Holding where VimpelCom has a 51.7 percent stake.

Orascom entered Bangladesh in September 2004 when it purchased Sheba Telecom for $60 million. Later, it rebranded itself and launched its services under the Banglalink brand in February 2005.

Banglalink has around 2.90 crore subscribers as of February 2014, with around 25 percent share in the six-operator mobile market, according to Bangladesh Telecommunica-tion Regulatory Commission.

VimpelCom is a joint venture between Norwegian telecom giant Telenor and Russian banking group Alfa.

VimpelCom is the seventh largest mobile operator in the world in terms of subscribers, and is listed on Nasdaq in New York. It has operations in Asia, Europe, North America and Africa with 60,000 employees, according to Lunder.

Report: Suman Saha
Source: Daily Star

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