The first network-sharing company in Bangladesh, edotco, with a focus on ensuring better service quality, has already invested $500 million in improving the service quality in the last five years. Now, the company is eyeing further expansion, while ensuring an even better quality of service. edotco Group Chief Executive Officer Mohamed Adlan Ahmad Tajudin recently spoke to The Business Standard and shared his future business plan.
When was your first visit to Bangladesh?
Adlan Ahmad Tajudin: This is my first time. All of my previous trips planned were cancelled due to Covid. I could finally manage the trip after Covid.
How do you feel about the economic and overall condition of Bangladesh?
Adlan Ahmad Tajudin: Bangladesh is a fast-growing economy. Its digital economy is growing at an exponential rate. The GDP of Bangladesh is likely to double in the coming eight years. This year, 16% of the total economy is the digital economy, which I think may soon move to about 40%.
Every telecom in Bangladesh has its network system. Yours is the first network-sharing company in Bangladesh. How do you feel about it?
Adlan Ahmad Tajudin: Over the past year, the mobile network operator's share ratio increased from 1.4 to 1.6, and we anticipate that it will continue to do so in the upcoming years. In countries having a similar economy as Bangladesh, we have seen that sharing ultimately brings in more profit and ensures the affordability of data to customers.
Does it provide better service to consumers?
Adlan Ahmad Tajudin: Yes. One of our most crucial focuses is to ensure providing better service quality. And, in most of our contracts, we ensure a service-level agreement that ensures better service. We also monitor the service provided in real-time. We are always one step ahead of our KPIs in terms of providing better service to our customers.
Secondly, we invest a lot in how to improve our service quality. So we continuously review our processes and try to develop technology to make sure our operational efficiency improves. In most of our sites, we have a Remote Management System so we can read and monitor all sorts of site support remotely. We also constantly review the process and upskill our team to make sure they have the skills to detect any issue.
How much did you invest so far? What's your plan for further investment by 2030?
Adlan Ahmad Tajudin: In the last five years, we have invested more than $500 million in tower setup, backend support, research and development, etc. At present, we see only network tower infrastructure, but with the evolution of technology, we will see more services being available for us to avail.
The coupling of software and hardware is another area we are exploring to provide better service for our customers. We want to stay in the market so we shall keep investing.
As the largest infrastructure company, what is your expectation from the Bangladesh telecom sector?
Adlan Ahmad Tajudin: Bangladesh's telecommunication sector is growing exponentially. In the last two years of the post-Covid era, we saw that the role of the information industry has been at a record high. This year alone the industry delivered service to the highest number of customers than in previous years. So far, the population coverage is around 98.3%.
I believe there are scopes to upgrade the current download speed of 8mbps in Bangladesh. And in response to the increasing demand for higher bandwidth from customers, we need to see how we can improve it. If we are to address the "under-connected" customers we need to ensure quality service throughout all spheres.
edotco has been declared as the significant market power (SMP) in the tower pool. What does it mean to you?
Adlan Ahmad Tajudin: It has been a long-standing issue we have discussed with the regulators. Of course, the SMPs would have an impact on our goods, especially on our new towers. So I think you would expect some slowdown in business. The bigger issue is how SMP would impact the industry as a whole.
We currently see that data is exploding in the industry and the need for infrastructure is growing exponentially. As one of the largest infrastructure companies for years, you see that there is a cap in terms of our ability to deliver the new towers to the community. So, there would be some impact on our growth rate in the delivery of towers. However, we need to see how the overall industry reacts.
There is a conception over the radiation of mobile towers, which is a setback to building towers. How is this issue addressed?
Adlan Ahmad Tajudin: The radiation rate emitted from towers is very negligible because it is similar to that emitted from home appliances like refrigerators, AC, microwave ovens, etc. So based on research it can be said that misconceptions sometimes overplay. The awareness, education and understanding level of the consumers is very significant to understand the fact.
Could you share your long-term plan in the Bangladesh market?
Adlan Ahmad Tajudin: We wish to be a more integrated player as we move forward. As we move to 5G, which in the case of Bangladesh would be within two to three years, it would open up new opportunities. Thus, it would require more bandwidth and provide faster speed.
The conversion to 5G would require more sites for the mobile network operator and infrastructure companies, for example, 100-200 cells per kilometre, which is 1-2 cells at present. So, companies would require a lot of investment to bring 5G into reality. Hence, a lot many areas would become essential for the industry to start thinking and preparing for us to go into 5G and focus to have a successful launch of 5G business models in the future.
Adlan Ahmad Tajudin: You are welcome.