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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Ericsson dance like an Egyptian

Ericsson has staged a comeback to Banglalink with its suite of base transceiver stations (BTS) and base station controller (BSC). The Swedish vendor was swapped by Siemens and Huawei when Egypt’s Orascom Telecom that owns Banglalink took over Sheba Telecom in September 2004. Three years later, Ericsson has taken partial revenge by displacing Huawei’s radio access equipment from Banglalink’s network in Dhaka and its environs that generate nearly 70 percent revenue. "Ericsson will replace Huawei’s 250 units of BTS and four units of BSC to increase our capacity and quality," Banglalink’s chief technical officer Marius Armeanca told Monday. He would not disclose the value of the deal, though. But it does not mean Huawei’s equipment are below par, nor have they been swapped, Armeanca stressed. Banglalink will use the displaced Chinese gears in other parts of its network.
Banglalink has been struggling with poor quality and capacity constraints to cope with exploding clientele. Siemens apparently have had the increased call traffic covered, Huawei did not. Siemens however could not tap this opportunity as its Dhaka office was busy with corporate fortification before merger with Nokia. Ericsson executives sitting on the fence promptly scrambled in Orascom’s Cairo headquarters. Its profile of being Grameenphone and Warid Telecom’s sole core network supplier as well as Aktel’s major vendor along with the largest contingent of local workforce probably impressed the Egyptians. It became more apparent when Orascom chief executive Naguib Sawiris expressed traditional Arabic gesture of friendship by embracing and kissing Ericsson CEO Carl-Henric Svanberg at a dinner in 3GSM World Congress at Barcelona last February. Banglalink’s Rashid Khan was the only chief executive not to be an Ericsson client to have met Svanberg during his brief daylong visit in Dhaka late April. It added fuel to speculations of a brewing deal although the parties were tight-lipped. Finally last Tuesday, Ericsson broke the news of striking its very first deal with Orascom through Banglalink. "This will ensure that the network gains the right technological building blocks as it moves in to the future," Rashid Khan said in a statement. Orascom took over Sheba and re-branded it as Banglalink in September 2004 with a mere 25,000 customers in seven years of business. Sheba put no effort to expand the network it bought from Ericsson as the operator’s shareholders were locked in a prolonged legal battle. Ericsson saw its hardware being taken off from incumbent customer by smaller and obscure rivals. Three years later it made a re-entry to the "Tiger’s Den" (Banglalink headquarters) with BTS and BSC. "We have the largest portfolio of products and services for Banglalink," Ericsson Bangladesh managing director Arun Bansal told "It is the customer’s prerogative to choose and time will answer what it picks." Those who know Bansal would not take his casual statement so casually.

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