Barrage of complaints against Grameenphone, State Minister Tarana tells at meeting with telco CEOs

State Minister for Post and Telecommunications Tarana Halim has asked the chief executives of the mobile-phone operators to quickly end problems of call drops and other harassments of the users.

Published : 19 Oct 2015, 04:04 PM
Updated : 19 Oct 2015, 04:04 PM

She called for an end to ‘this injustice’ in the meeting on Monday. 
Tarana said the subscribers had allegations against all the operators, but most against the largest one – Grameenphone.
The minister called the telco CEOs to her office at the Secretariat in the wake of rising allegations from the subscribers.
She showed a Facebook post of State Minister for Foreign Affairs Md Shahriar Alam on projector at the beginning of the meeting at 4:30pm in the presence of reporters.
Alam, disappointed at call drops and poor service of Grameenphone, wrote: “What is the problem with GP? Impossible to make calls. Call drops. Couple of months ago they used to send apology SMS after call drop, no trace of that even!” 
He then used the emoticon “feeling angry”.
Tarana also showed on projector and read out allegations against Grameenphone like – ‘Behaving like East India Company’, charging extra money for package offer, harassment at customer care centre, and slow internet.

Addressing Grameenphone CEO Rajeev Sethi, the minister said, “There are many complaints against GP. Since you have a bigger number of subscribers, you’ll have to pay more attention to these complaints.”  

Sethi sat in the chair with his head hanging low.

CEOs of the mobile-phone operators at a meeting with the state minister for telecommunication at the Secretariat on Monday. Photo: mostafigur rahman

State Minister for Telecommunication Tarana Halim at a meeting with the CEOs of the mobile-phone operators at the Secretariat on Monday. Photo: mostafigur rahman

“Subscribers expect quality service from an operator that has a large subscriber base. The angry reactions are the result of their demand not being addressed. You can see it,” Tarana said. 
Grameenphone, some 56 percent owned by Norway's state-run Telenor, boasted a subscription base of 55.5 million until September 2015. Launched in 1997, Grameenphone claims to have 99 percent surface coverage in the country.
Telenor runs businesses in several other countries but makes more money in Bangladesh than from its other subsidiaries including India’s Uninor.
The minister told the CEOs: “The subscribers will have to be free from the injustice so that they should not feel cheated. The main target is to achieve customer satisfaction, there is no disagreement here. All will have to start the journey together.”
Banglalink CEO Ziad Shatara, Robi CEO Supun Weerasinghe, Airtel Bangladesh CEO Prasanta Das Sharma, Citycell CEO Mehboob Chowdhury, and state-owned Teletalk's Managing Director Gias Uddin Ahmed were present.

Tarana Halim said there were allegations against the other operators as well.

“There are dropped calls but there is no compensation for them. It has to be settled,” she said.

Grameenphone CEO Rajeev Sethi

She then asked for Sethi’s comments.
The GP CEO said: “BTRC has quality of service standards. We always follow these standards. On call drop and 3G service issue, many barometers depend on it. 
“Zero call drops does not happen. As an operator, we always follow the benchmark and standards. Can be improved on that.”
The minister asked why Grameenphone went back on the promise to
Sethi said last year’s announcement to compensate voice call drop with a minute of free talk-time was a promotional offer.
Tarana Halim gave the operators two months to take care of the call drop issues.  
“The operators will have to report their measures to address call drop problem by December. There must be a solution to drop calls (by this time),” she said. 
India recently ordered its operators to compensate the subscribers with Rs 1 per dropped call, she pointed out. 
The minister asked the BTRC to consider if any such announcement can be made in Bangladesh.

GP’s Chief Corporate Affairs Officer Mahmud Hossain said a slot of their 3G spectrum was facing ‘intersection problem’ (intersects with another slot) in 11 northern districts. This was also causing call drops, he said.    

Banglalink CEO Shatara said the dropped call issue was not of the mobile-phone operators alone. The IGW, ICX and NTTN services, too, were part of the call-drop issue; but the subscribers were only accusing the carriers.  

He called for joint action to thrash out a solution.

Robi's Company Secretary Mohammed Shahedul Alam said the mobile companies use microwave for their service.

He said fog sometimes disrupts microwave leading to some problems. This problem can be solved if the mobile operators are given fibre connectivity, he added.

Post and Telecommunications Division Secretary Md Faizur Rahman Chowdhury, BTRC Vice-Chairman Brig Gen (Retd) Md Ahsan Habib Khan, BTRC Director General (Systems and Service) Brig Gen Md Emdad ul Bari, among others, were present at the meeting.

According to BTRC, the number of SIM cards sold to the subscribers crossed 130 million in the 160 million-strong country by the end of August.