Teletalk is the only state-owned mobile phone operator in Bangladesh. The company started its commercial operation on 31 March 2005. As a state-owned company, Teletalk started its journey with high hopes in the telecom industry of Bangladesh. But it has never been able to attract more customers than its competitors. As of June 2021, the number of Teletalk subscribers is around 6 million with only a 3.39% market share, which positioned them at the bottom of the competition. Teletalk aims to make the government’s vision of ‘Digital Bangladesh’ to be successful. But it could never attract a vast portion of customers compared to the competitors. With over 8 crore subscribers and 46% market share, Grameenphone becomes the largest mobile operator in Bangladesh and with more than 5 crore subscribers and 29% market share, Robi comes at the second position. Banglalink comes in 3rd position with nearly 4 crore subscribers and 21% market share. Despite being the state-owned mobile operator of Bangladesh, why is Teletalk lagging behind?
The Bangladesh Telephone & Telegraph Board (BTTB) started work on a new project in June 2004, considering the growing telecom sector of Bangladesh as a new source of income for the government. BTTB later launched the mobile network service ‘BTTB bMobile’ as a subsidiary. In the same year, the name of the company was changed to ‘Teletalk Bangladesh Ltd’ and it was rebranded as ‘Teletalk’. It’s authorized capital was BDT 2000 crore. Teletalk is the only mobile operator in Bangladesh which has a 100% local human resource base, including technical, operational and managerial positions.
Teletalk wanted to remove the oligopoly of other mobile operators from the telecom sector. It introduced a lower tariff structure, flat-rate calling to all operators, lower ISD call rates for all Teletalk sims, lower value-added services rate, economy ISO service for landlines, lower sim card price and data package rates. Teletalk launched its postpaid service in January 2006. At that time, other operators also had to redesign their tariff structure to stay on the market.
In the month of October 2012, Teletalk launched 3G service before any other operators. After the launching 3G service, the number of Teletalk subscribers also started to grow. At the start of 2012, Teletalk had more than 12 lakh subscribers, within January 2013, their subscriber count had risen to 16 and a half lakh. People wanted to test the 3G experience and subscribed to Teletalk. Later, as other operators launch their 3G services, Teletalk’s customer growth continues to decline.
*Data updated up to June 2021
Teletalk launched ‘Agami’ SIM for the SSC candidates who passed SSC with GPA 5 in 2013. They launched ‘Bornomala’ SIM in February 2015 during the Annual Book fair of Bangladesh. ‘Bornomala’ and ‘Agami’ project helped Teletalk to add about 2 lakh of users. In order to promote telecommunication services to empower women and underprivileged people, Teletalk provided free SIM for mothers of primary students who got stipends under the ‘Mayer Hashi’ Project in 2016. The project added 10 lakh users in Teletalk. Teletalk gave away free SIM in 2017 and added 20 lakh users under the “Oporajita” project as well.
Teletalk launched 4G service in their network on 16 December, 2018, although they were late at this time. Teletalk has been made a compulsory mobile operator for a couple of government’s internet services. Almost all public results in Bangladesh are published with Teletalks technical support. Teletalk is the only operator which provides SMS and online based job recruitment solutions for every public and a couple of private job sectors. Students are also obligated to use Teletalk for all kinds of admission-related application submissions and payments in Bangladesh. It is even mandatory for some government officials to subscribe to Teletalk. In October 2020, Teletalk submitted an investment plan of BDT 2204 crore for 3G and 4G network expansion to rural areas. LG U+, a Korean company, offered to invest $1.2 billion in Teletalk as a loan and Bangladesh has decided to accept the offer and proceed to further negotiation. LG basically wanted to invest in developing 5G infrastructure as well as upgrading existing 3G and 4G services. The Government has set a target to roll out 5G service commercially in Teletalk by 2023 to become the first mover on 5G technology in Bangladesh. Teletalk has introduced the country’s first mobile TV service. Teletalk also has a video streaming service called ‘Teleflix’. People can watch movies, talk shows, news and various kinds of programs. Teletalk has a couple of other digital services, including ‘Teletalk Vehicle Tracking Services’, ‘My Teletalk App’, ‘TelePoints’, ‘TeleCharge’, ‘TelePay’ and ‘TeleChat’.
While Teletalk was launching various new campaigns to increase its customer base, other operators were working on upgrading their network infrastructure as well as expanding 3G services across the country. By 2014, Grameenphone, Banglalink and Robi were able to provide 3G services in 64 districts of the country. Due to the wide network infrastructure across the country, the subscriber base of all the operators continued to grow. In addition to that, all operators were coming up with various value added services and features for their customers. At that time, all mobile operators were offering customers the app facility to recharge, balance check and purchase SMS, voice and data packs. In 2016, Grameenphone launched the digital wallet service ‘G-Pay’, which had the option to recharge the phone, purchase train tickets, pay utility and internet bills. In 2017, GP also launched the video streaming platform ‘Bioscope’. On the other hand, Robi brings e-ticketing platform ‘bdtickets.com’, mobile application platform ‘bdapps.com’ for domestic app developers and vehicle tracking service called ‘Robi Tracker’. Robi launched the video streaming platform ‘Robi Screen’ and a payment service called ‘RobiCash’ for its customers in 2017 as well. On the other hand, Banglalink also launched a new video streaming service called ‘Toffee’ in 2019.
Why is Teletalk is Lagging Behind?
Poor Network Infrastructure
After being privileged with all those advantages, Teletalk is still severely lagging behind in the race of mobile operators in terms of subscription. Poor Network coverage and slow internet speed are two major issues of Teletalk. According to Telecom Minister ‘Mustafa Jabbar, The state-owned operator has only 48% network coverage, whereas most other operators have almost double coverage compared to it.
Currently, Teletalk has 7,300 base transceiver stations, which is 26.78% of the required stations. Teletalk says it needs a total of 18,000 2G, 3G and 4G mobile network towers across the country to ensure its coverage.
Lack of Investment & Bureaucratic Complication
The minister of telecommunication said, lack of investment in the infrastructure and network upgrade are the main constraints for Teletalk. Since starting, Grameenphone has invested a total of almost 40,000 crore till December 2017, whereas, Teletalk has invested only 3600 crore at the same time. Investment proposals also take a lot of time to be sanctioned due to Government’s bureaucratic complexity.
Poor Internet Service
According to the Teletalk user, Poor network coverage and internet service are the main reasons for them to become reluctant to use Teletalk. 3G & 4G services are not being provided to small cities and towns for poor allocation of the network. Internet speed is also not up to the mark due to less number of towers. In 2019, the BTRC conducted a Quality of Service (QoS) test in Dhaka and Barisal to measure the quality of 4G internet service for all 4 operators of Bangladesh. BTRC benchmark for 4G internet speed was 7 MBPS. GP and Robi met the benchmark in Dhaka, while Teletalk failed to meet the benchmark with its 4.85 Mbps.
Grameenphone launched 4G service in February 2018, whereas Teletalk launched 4G in December 2018. Other companies had also launched 4G before Teletalk almost a year ago. According to BTRC, Teletalk lost almost 640,000 subscribers from December 2017 to December 2018 as everyone wanted to switch to faster internet speed.
Most of the operators compete with each other by providing various offers and value-added services. They often come up with lucrative voice and data packages. Although having very low cost packages, Teletalk was always lagging behind in the competitions due to lack of exposure. Although Bangladesh’s telecom sector has grown rapidly in the last few years, it is a relatively small market. There are only four mobile network operators in the US market, which is twice as large as the Bangladesh market. But in such a small country, 6 telecom operators operate in Bangladesh at a time. Teletalk has never been able to compete with such a small market share in Bangladesh.
Lack of Promotional Activities
Teletalk has very few promotional and advertising campaigns compared to GP, Banglalink and Robi. People of Bangladesh are very familiar with the jingles and taglines of GP or Banglalink’s advertisements. We see a couple of advertising campaigns and TVCs of GP, Banglalink and Robi everyday in both Electronic and print media. Compared to that, a few of Teletalk’s advertisements can be seen on print media, but Teletalk’s advertisements can rarely be seen on television. Apart from traditional media, Teletalk is lagging behind on social media and other digital media in terms of advertising and promotions.
Late Entrance on Market
GP, Banglalink and Robi entered the market earlier than Teletalk. They have captured the majority of the high paying customers at the beginning. Teletalk couldn’t capture the early markets. Research shows, 50.8% of people said that they do not use Teletalk because they have already bought other sims at first. Since, changing mobile numbers is a hassle for a lot of business and personal users, they become reluctant to go for other operators. Nowadays, people use multiple sims. The research also shows that only 2.06% of Teletalk users use Teletalk as their first choice, while 63.8% of GP users use GP as their first choice.
Poor Customer Services
According to The Daily Star, Teletalk is lagging behind in terms of providing fast customer service. One out of three customers receives responses from Teletalk to solve any issues. At the beginning of its journey, it had no significant customer service. Customer care numbers barely picked calls and customer care offices couldn’t provide proper solutions. Gradually they have stepped up on that issue, but still, they are far lagging behind on customer services compared to other competitors.
Lack of Humanpower
The number of employees, technicians and engineers in Teletalk are not sufficient compared to other operators. As it is a state-owned company, the job allotment and recruiting process is not as efficient as the private sector. As a result, it is difficult for Teletalk to provide good service due to lack of adequate manpower. In addition to that, the lack of adequate recharge points and customer care is one of the reasons why Teletalk is lagging behind.
The Bangladesh telecom sector still has the opportunity to grow. According to a report of The Daily Star, Bangladesh has 90 million unique mobile subscribers. That means 54% of people in Bangladesh have mobile connections as of December 2020. In order to save Teletalk, the government should focus on building network infrastructure as well as improving services. Besides that, the use of Teletalk can be made mandatory in various government projects. Apart from this, Teletalk can also be kept as a state-owned subsidiary.