The government has backtracked from its decision to shut down mobile phone networks along Bangladesh’s border with India, considering the hassle suffered by people living in the border areas.

The Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) issued an order on Wednesday, directing the four mobile phone operators of the country – Grameenphone, Robi, Banglalink and Teletalk – to reinstate their network operations in the border areas.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, Brig Gen (retd) SM Farhad, secretary general of the Association of Mobile Telecom Operators of Bangladesh (Amtob), confirmed that mobile phone networks in the border areas had been reinstated as per BTRC instructions.

Our correspondents at Hili, Benapole and Akhaura land ports also confirmed that the mobile networks were functioning as of 11am on January 1st 2020.

Earlier on Monday, the mobile phone companies had to shut down their networks within 1km of the Bangladesh-India border following a BTRC directive. The directive cited security reasons but did not elaborate.

When asked about the shutdown, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal and Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen both told  that they had been unaware of any such decision.

But sources in the BTRC and the Ministry of Posts, Telecommunications and Information Technology said the government had made the decision to prevent a possible pushback on the basis of rumours, given the perceptible tension between Bangladesh and India in recent times following the enactment of a new citizenship law by the Indian parliament. 

On Wednesday, however, BTRC officials said they had been directed by the ministry to revoke the shutdown.

When contacted, Posts, Telecommunications and IT Minister Mustafa Jabbar said the issue needed further deliberation on the part of the top brass of the government.

“Almost 12 million mobile phone subscribers were directly affected by the network shutdown. So we restored the networks considering the public need,” the minister told to the press.

He further said the decision to shut down mobile networks in the border areas had not been initiated by his ministry. 

“We will seek recommendations from top officials of the government on how to proceed on this issue,” he added.

Officials speaking for the mobile phone operators said about 2,000 mobile phone towers were turned off when the shutdown was ordered, affecting 3km of border areas inside the country in 32 border districts.


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