Vol. 5 Num 574 Fri. January 06, 2006  
Front Page

6th Entrant to Mobile Business
Warid Telecom eyes supremacy in 3-5yrs

Dubai-based Warid Telecom, which last month secured the sixth cellphone operating licence in Bangladesh, plans to climb to the top of the sector by the next three to five years.

According to its internal documents, the new entrant's initial plan is to acquire over 14 million customers in four phases by December 2007.

First, it will launch services in 26 districts with an aim to net 2.8 million subscribers by October 2006.

In the second phase ending in January 2007, its plan is to expand the service coverage to 22 more districts, targeting 3.1 million fresh customers.

In the third phase, 13 more districts will come under its network by March 2007 with an aim to enlarge its subscriber base by 3.35 million.

Warid will cover the rest of the country in the fourth, and last, step ending in December 2007, during which it expects to add 5 million new clients.

Industry insiders say Warid will have to overcome the unfriendly weather from April to September as well as the looming political unrest in the run-up to the national elections slated for January 2007 to carry out its aggressive network rollout plan.

In order to triumph over these challenges Warid, however, has decided to install microwave links for rapid deployment of local and countrywide transmission networks. It has stipulated a few critical tasks like site acquisitions for base stations and energising these installations as the suppliers' responsibility.

French Alcatel, Swedish Eric-sson, Chinese Huawei, German Siemens, Finnish Nokia and American Motorola are scheduled to submit their bids for the supply and installation of the transmission network on January 14 at Warid's headquarters in Dubai, according to sources.

Warid also has asked them to arrange 80 percent financing of this several hundreds of million dollars mobile phone project. It has proposed to repay the principal amount of the credit in 11 equal, consecutive, semi-annual instalments. The first tranche of the repayment will be disbursed no later than 18 months from the final acceptance or 21 months from the provisional acceptance of the commissioned equipment.

Warid will award the contract to the winning bidder on February 11 apparently to break the news during the 3GSM World Congress opening in Barcelona on February 13.

The only country Warid has run telecoms business in is Pakistan. Yet, it managed the mobile phone operating licence in Bangladesh on December 21 last through a controversially structured licensing process.

Bangladesh Telecom-muni-cation Regulatory Commission (BTRC) stipulated numerous non-telecoms preconditions for qualifying as a bidder for this operating licence. Evidently, only Warid could meet these non-telecoms prerequisites. Experts believe the unusual preconditions discouraged many world-class operators from participating in the bidding.

Initially, the BTRC planned to award this licence through open auction, as Pakistan did recently and bagged nearly $6 billion fees from two licences. The BTRC later abandoned the auction plan reportedly due to pressure from the alternative powerhouse of the ruling coalition leader.

The BTRC charged Warid only a $50 million licence fee, whereas this Persian Gulf company had to pay $290 million to get a similar licence in Pakistan.