However, the investment figures for fiscal 2012-13 and 2013-14 were higher due to 3G and 2G spectrum fees paid by the operators at that time. The telcos then had to pour money into rolling out improved internet services.
Five operators, except Citycell, together invested about Tk 11,414.36 crore in fiscal 2012-13, and about Tk 9,787.62 crore in 2013-14, according to the annual reports of Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission.
The figure fell to just Tk 5,666.57 crore last fiscal year. Citycell has not made any new investments in the last three years.
Even amid the steep decline in investment, the operators’ revenue was unaffected, standing at Tk 22,010.73 crore in fiscal 2014-15. Revenue in the previous year was Tk 20,765.22 crore, according to the telecom regulator’s annual reports.
The mobile operators already completed their 2G network rollout investments and are hesitant to make aggressive investments in 3G services, said M Rokonuzzaman, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at North South University.
“The telecos want to keep their voice revenue steady for the next few years, and making 3G services better could adversely affect that, which is forcing them to invest in a conservative manner,” he said.
Rokonuzzaman also suggested the regulator should intervene to bring a change to the trend.
Operators, however, have been reticent to express their motives behind low investments.
Grameenphone, the market leader, invested about Tk 1,881.43 crore last fiscal year, and their revenue in the time was Tk 10,300.83 crore, as per the regulator’s annual report about to be published.
The figures for investment and revenue were Tk 3,311.50 crore and Tk 10,043 crore respectively for 2013-14.
Robi earned some Tk 5,058.62 crore, and invested Tk 1,825.64 crore last fiscal year, while the figures for fiscal 2013-14 were Tk 4,672.25 crore and Tk 2,541.36 crore.
Banglalink’s revenue was Tk 4,365.15 crore and investment was Tk 1,384.77 crore in 2014-15. In the previous year, the figures were Tk 4,132.64 crore and Tk 2,190.02 crore.
Airtel, which awaits a merger with Robi, saw a fall in revenue as well as cuts in investments last year.
Airtel’s revenue stood at Tk 1,397.65 crore, down from Tk 1,713.82 crore in 2013-14. Investments fell too, from Tk 1,744.73 crore in 2013-14, to Tk 377.25 crore in 2014-15.
Citycell, the oldest operator in the country, earned just Tk 134.79 crore in revenues last year, compared to Tk 230.52 crore in 2013-14.
The last investment expenditure by the operator was to the tune of Tk 490.4 crore in 2011-12, the BTRC report shows.
State-run Teletalk earned some Tk 753.69 crore, and invested about Tk 197.48 crore in 2014-15. The company’s investment and revenue figures for 2013-14 were not mentioned in the annual report.
– Muhammad Zahidul Islam