Huawei backs Bangladesh digitalisation vision - Mobile World Live

Huawei backs Bangladesh digitalisation vision

28 FEB 2022

PARTNER CONTENT: Mustafa Jabbar, Bangladesh’s Minister of Posts and Telecommunications, identified mobile technologies as an essential part of a vision to create a digitalised nation, a push which he noted had already delivered a significant hike in user numbers over the past four years.

During an interview conducted in Huawei’s extended reality space during MWC Barcelona 2022, the Minister explained a push to deploy 4G in Bangladesh was already paying off by advancing its digital goals, increasing subscriber numbers and, crucially, laying the groundwork for swift rollout of 5G.

Jabbar noted 4G services in Bangladesh launched in 2018, the same year he became its telecoms Minister and the nation first declared its ambition “to become digital”.

Bangladesh’s digital vision was born from several factors: missing “three industrial revolutions” and a realisation that without changes in the telecommunications sector the “nation will not go further” than its then largely agronomy-focused economy.

Jabbar was made responsible for delivering “new technologies”, a task he embarked on with a visit to MWC Barcelona 2018.

“It was very important that we can provide the technology for the people”, the Minister explained, noting connections in Bangladesh at the time were relatively low at around 40 million people.

Embracing a “people are to be connected” motto, connections in Bangladesh now total 180 million, Jabbar highlighted.

But the digital transformation project has done more than just increase access to telecoms technology. The Minister noted data consumption had increased from 1,000GB in 2020 to 2,700GB today, an “important” rise.

“We can reach people,” he said, crediting Bangladesh mobile operators for boosting coverage to “more than 98 per cent” of the nation’s geographic area by the close of 2021. “And that relates to the people. That means the people had connectivity, the population coverage, population connectivity. And that was important”.

Jabbar explained boosting access paves the way for users to upgrade from legacy mobile technologies to 4G and 5G. He noted people with a 2G or 3G mobile device can “just shift it to a 4G set: it can unveil the opportunity of using 4G”.

The Minister noted this shift “happened in many cases”, noting the spread of 4G went hand-in-hand with a government push to back operator efforts in deploying the technology: “I’m really happy and also proud”.

A sale of spectrum in the 1800MHz and 2100MHz bands took place in 2021, and operators bolstered their holdings in a recent auction covering the 2.3GHz and 2.6GHz bands.

Bangladesh’s first 5G networks went live late in 2021. Jabbar again credited the knowledge delivered by MWC Barcelona in 2018 for helping drive the push towards the technology.

“I spent the whole period talking to people, talking to experts, talking to the policymakers”, he explained, noting this made him realise “5G is not only a mobile technology”. Instead, it is something which “will create the highway for digitalisation”.

“We understand that mobile technology has given lots of opportunities, created lots of things.”  But the Minister added there was little in the way of comparison between 5G and previous generations. It “is a different technology and we understood that we cannot miss that train”.

Jabbar explained the launch of 5G was a key element in achieving a Digital Bangladesh vision laid out by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. The nation initiated testing four months after MWC Barcelona 2018, moving swiftly to the commercial launch by state-owned operator Teletalk in early December 2021.

On what the nation branded Digital Bangladesh Day, Teletalk lit a 5G network comprising around six sites built specifically for the technology, “and that was the beginning”.

Bangladesh’s rapid progress towards 5G was borne out of a concern it would not be a part of the global digitalisation push being enabled by modern communication infrastructure. The technology “is definitely the highway for the future of this nation, future of the people”, Jabbar commented.

Jabbar noted Bangladesh is on-par with global development and deployment of 5G, a boast he explained the nation had not always been able to make.

“The nicest thing is that with past technologies we were very late in every step. But in 5G we are not late.”

“I mean, you’ve relatively new 4G networks and the 5G networks are coming up. Presumably they will work together and complement each other.”

Use cases
The benefits of the Digital Bangladesh vision are already being felt: Jabbar noted during the Covid-19 (coronavirus) pandemic the nation enjoyed a surge in digital commerce, a boom he expects to reap further benefits moving forward.

During the pandemic, farmers were “selling vegetables, fish, food to the cities”, the Minister explained, adding this was two-way traffic as those sellers in turn “were buying clothes from the cities”.

Jabbar noted there remain challenges regarding educating users and industries about the potential benefits of 5G, a task he said must be a collaboration between the country and its operators.

The Minister highlighted healthcare as one of the key benefits 5G could deliver to the people of Bangladesh, particularly in rural areas: “you need the medicine, you need the doctor, you need the operation”.

Beyond the obvious benefit of telemedicine, Jabbar argued educating the nation about technology will drive usage and so continue to boost Bangladesh’s position in the world, creating a virtuous circle of gains for society and operator revenue.

The Minister highlighted the support Huawei has provided in delivering on the Digital Bangladesh vision, particularly around “building the infrastructure” for the technology highway.

Bangladesh is also relying on Huawei to contribute to the market education Jabbar cited as needed to fuel the digital revolution. The company “have to help me in creating” the digital highway and steering the use cases for 5G, “and where it should be applied”, he said.

The partnership with Huawei is one “Bangladesh welcomes”, Jabbar concluded.

View the video interview in full here.





Mobile World Live

Mobile World Live is the online service dedicated to providing the mobile industry with daily news coverage & analysis of the biggest global market developments.

Read more