History of Grameen Phone
The company has so far invested more than BDT 10,700 crore (USD 1. 6 billion) to build the network infrastructure since its inception in 1997. It has invested over BDT 3,100 crore (USD 450 million) during the first three quarters of 2007 while BDT 2,100 crore (USD 310 million) was invested in 2006 alone. Grameenphone is also one the largest taxpayers in the country, having contributed nearly BDT 7000 crore in direct and indirect taxes to the Government Exchequer over the years. Of this amount, over BDT 2000 crore was paid in 2006 alone.
Since its inception in March 1997, Grameenphone has built the largest cellular network in the country with over 10,000 base stations in more than 5700 locations. Presently, nearly 98 percent of the country’s population is within the coverage area of the Grameenphone network. Grameenphone was also the first operator to introduce the pre-paid service in September 1999. It established the first 24-hour Call Center, introduced value-added services such as VMS, SMS, fax and data transmission services, international roaming service, WAP, SMS-based push-pull services, EDGE, personal ring back tone and many other products and services.
The entire Grameenphone network is also EDGE/GPRS enabled, allowing access to high-speed Internet and data services from anywhere within the coverage area. There are currently nearly 3 million EDGE/GPRS users in the Grameenphone network. Grameenphone nearly doubled its subscriber base during the initial years while the growth was much faster during the later years. It ended the inaugural year with 18,000 customers, 30,000 by the end of 1998, 60,000 in 1999, 193,000 in 2000, 471,000 in 2001, 775,000 in 2002, 1. 16 million in 2003, 2. 4 million in 2004, 5. million in 2005, 11. 3 million in 2006, and it ended 2007 with 16. 5 million customers. From the very beginning, Grameenphone placed emphasis on providing good after-sales services. In recent years, the focus has been to provide after-sales within a short distance from where the customers live. There are now more than 600 GP Service Desks across the country covering nearly all upazilas of 61 districts. In addition, there are 81 Grameenphone Centers in all the divisional cities and they remain open from 8am-8pm every day including all holidays.
GP has generated direct and indirect employment for a large number of people over the years. The company presently has more than 5,000 full, part-time and contractual employees. Another 100,000 people are directly dependent on Grameenphone for their livelihood, working for the Grameenphone dealers, retailers, scratch card outlets, suppliers, vendors, contractors and others. In addition, the Village Phone Program, also started in 1997, provides a good income-earning opportunity to more than 280,000 mostly women Village Phone operators living in rural areas.
The Village Phone Program is a unique initiative to provide universal access to telecommunications service in remote, rural areas. Administered by Grameen Telecom Corporation, it enables rural people who normally cannot afford to own a telephone to avail the service while providing the VP operators an opportunity to earn a living. The Village Phone initiative was given the “GSM in the Community” award at the global GSM Congress held in Cannes, France in February 2000.
Grameenphone was also adjudged the Best Joint Venture Enterprise of the Year at the Bangladesh Business Awards in 2002. Grameenphone was presented with the GSM Association’s Global Mobile Award for ‘Best use of Mobile for Social and Economic Development’ at the 3GSM World Congress held in Singapore, in October 2006, for its Community Information Center (CIC) project, and for its HealthLine Service project at the 3GSM World Congress held in Barcelona, Spain, in February 2007.