BTCL Services - Prospects & PossibilitiesM. A. Moonem, (Asstt. Divisional Engineer, BTCL)
Bangladesh Telecommunications Company Limited (BTCL) has been the pioneer in telecommunication sector in Bangladesh. It started in 1947 as Pakistan Post & Telegraph Department under Telegraph Act - 1885 and in 1975 the corporate body of Bangladesh Telegraph & Telephone Board (BTTB) had been formed by T&T Board Ordinance - 1975. In 2008 BTCL was formed as a Govt. owned company by the T&T Board (amendment) Ordinance - 2008. From the very first basic analog telephony system BTCL has walked a long way towards its present stage of modern versatile data and telecommunication service. At times BTCL was the only telecom operator and service provider in our country. Due to rapid technological advancement, change in subscriber’s demand and penetration of many telecom operators and related service providers BTCL now has to face fierce competition to establish its dominance in present telecom market. As a junior member in BTCL family I just wish to express my simple understanding and opinion about our overall products and services.
Basic Voice Telephony:
Presently BTCL has about 1 million PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network) or fixed telephone subscribers across the country, where the total number of telephone (both mobile and PSTN) subscribers are around 45 millions in Bangladesh. Growth rate of fixed telephone subscribers in recent years is also negligible in comparison to that of mobile subscribers. Mobile phones are getting popular due to its wireless handy mobility and its capability of integrating various value added services along with basic voice telephony service. As a newer versatile technology cellular telecommunication has acquired a huge market share of telecom subscribers all over the world. But world leaders in telecom market throughout the world think that PSTN network has huge possibilities just if addition of newer technologies, services and changing trend to data communication is possible.
Now BTCL has about 730 exchanges, 18 TAX (Trunk Auto Exchange), 3 Satellite Earth Stations, 6 ITX (International Trunk Exchange) and countrywide microwave and optical fiber network to provide service to its valued subscribers. BTCL offers the lowest rate (only 10 paisa/min) for local calls and it also lowered connection & other telephone related fees to very cheap. This is obvious that we must pay effort now to increase number of subscribers to make BTCL efficient and as well as profitable in such a competitive market. Subscribers at Dhaka, Chittagong and some other district-cities have demand for BTCL fixed telephone most. There are some places in Dhaka where there is a good demand for BTCL fixed phone, but due to number shortage or insufficient cable-pair in the demanding area, sometimes we cannot provide new connections to them. Moreover underground telephone cables are getting cut-off very often disrupting service and the cable network is expensive to install and maintain also. In such cases BTCL may step towards CDMA WLL solution in parallel to existing wired connections as some other PSTN operators are running.
Data & Internet:
Now more than 33,000 subscribers from 64 districts and 402 upazillas / growth centers having digital exchanges are using BTCL dialup internet. BTCL’s premium dialup service (user: btcl, password: btcl, dial no: 0101234) from all around the country became so popular a service that we are in need of expanding its capacity to provide this service. In 2007-08 FY BTCL earned Tk. 64.1 crore from Internet, Leased line, DDN, Domain service etc. Now we have around 1900 km of optical fiber network and a vast microwave network connecting almost all the districts. It is an opportunity for BTCL to meet up the rising demand for high speed data and internet service throughout the country. People may please visit the website for data & internet http://www.btcl.net.bd/ for relevant information.
BTCL is going to introduce ADSL (Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line) service in 12 districts; Dhaka, Narayanganj, Gazipur, Chittagong, Comilla, Barisal, Rajshahi, Mymensingh, Sylhet, Bogra, Khulna, Jessore. ADSL is a form of DSL, a data communication technology that enables faster data transmission over copper telephone lines than a conventional voice-band modem can provide. It does this by utilizing frequencies that are not used by a voice telephone call. A splitter or filter allows a single telephone connection to be used for both ADSL service and voice calls at the same time.
Figure: A schematic of typical ADSL connection.
At the telephone exchange the line terminates at a DSLAM (DSL Access Module) where another frequency splitter separates the voice band for the conventional phone network. Data carried by the ADSL is routed over BTCL’s data network and data don’t go through the local exchange’s PCM process. We are expecting a good response from our subscribers as we hope to meet up their demand for truly broadband access to internet.
BTCL has another new element in its network, NGN (Next Generation Network). We have the core part installed in Mogbazar TAX (Trunk Auto Exchange) and four media gateways at Sylhet, Kustia, Khulna and Barisal. Future PSTN network may be of NGN type because of its adaptability to upcoming packet-based data, voice and various intelligent services.
NGN is actually a packet-based network able to provide telecommunication services and able to make use of multiple broadband, QoS-enabled transport technologies and in which service-related functions are independent from underlying transport-related technologies. It offers unfettered access by users to different service providers. BTCL may think of expanding NGN and get new features to provide services like IPTV, triple-play, IP Phone and other multimedia services to provide to end users.
I N Services:
BTCL installed a Fixed Intelligent Network (FIN) Platform at Mogbazar with 3 (three) services as (1) Prepaid Calling Card (PCC) service, (2) Prepaid Telephone (PPT) Service and (3) Free Phone / Toll-free Service (FPS). Its Commercial operation started on 17th July, 2006 through the PCC service. Using this service people can make ISD, E-ISD, NWD calls from anywhere within the country using BTCL prepaid scratch cards which are available at Post Offices, City Bank, Dhaka Bank branches countrywide and Basic Bank bill booths in Dhaka. It drew good customer attention and people are using this service from more than 60 different locations in the country. We need to take an appropriate marketing strategy to make these calling cards available to the demanding subscribers.
Figure: User connectivity to the BTCL FIN system.
Prepaid telephone (PPT) service had been launched in 1st April, 2008. In this service a PPT subscriber’s all outgoing calls must go through IN Platform and call charge shall be deducted from the PPT account that can be recharged with the same BTCL prepaid calling card.
Free Phone Service (FPS) or toll-free service is now ready to be served. Business communities, corporate bodies may provide call-center services through FPS. Here a service subscriber shall have a toll-free access code like 0800-217-XXX and people dialing to this number shall not be charged rather the called party shall pay for the call. This may be a good business promotion tool.
Future IN services: BTCL existing IN Platform is physically capable of providing many more attractive intelligent services and features that can add to our revenue growth. BTCL has to buy licenses and install those services in IN platform. Some popular IN services that our neighboring countries like India, Pakistan have already running successfully are as follows:
Premium Rate Service (PRM): With PRM service, the operator can host content service (like news or other contents) offered by the content service provider and charge a premium fee for the content access.
Mass Calling Service (MCS): This service has attractive features like arrangement of interactive Question-Answer or Lucky Draw event, ordering for some goods via IVR, tele-voting, collect donations or playing games etc.
Utility Bill Pay service (UBP): UBP service provides the service users with the function of paying for the utility bills with prepaid scratch cards. After the service user buys a card issued by the service provider, he/she can dial the UBP access code provided by the service provider to enter the telephone flow, and then complete the bill payment according to the voice announcements played by the system. Now GrameenPhone is collecting gas & electricity bills using such services. BTCL primarily may introduce UBP service only for bill payment of BTCL’s post-paid subscribers which may greatly save human & material resources and save users from hassle of queuing to pay the bill.
Now BTCL has only one SSP (Service Switching Point) connected with the IN system. If we can just install some more SSPs in major divisional cities and buy new IN services, subscribers all over the country shall get access to all IN services and features easily.
For BTCL, marketing of its product and services appears as a new concept since former BTTB had a few activities regarding this. Now a day it is hard to survive in competition without proper marketing strategy. BTCL needs first to advertise to prospective customers about what services and products we have, and then to try to make them available to users and continuously analyze market trend and take necessary steps accordingly. BTCL, of course, has formed a marketing department for this purpose.
BTCL has one Telecom Staff College at Gazipur, 3 Telecom Training Centers at Tejgaon, Khulna & Bogra and 5 Sub-centers at Dhaka, Jessore, Barisal, Chittagong and Rajshahi to train up its staffs and officers. Our training infrastructures need to be upgraded and these centers may be a source of earning revenue also.
As a new ‘company’ in telecommunication sector BTCL should play a dynamic role to strengthen its existence and come up with a new face. To do so BTCL needs to go through proper planning & implementation, wise investment and efficient operation at relevant spheres of its functionality. BTCL should participate in the market with a view to make profit as well as serving our people satisfactorily. Whatever the change in technology or market-trend comes we hope BTCL will remain on top as it has been for decades in Bangladesh. (Teletech 2009)