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Bangladeshi 3G network launch to usher in Internet

DHAKA (Reuters) - Bangladesh's 160 million people will leap into the Internet era in October when high-speed mobile phone services are launched in the nation's two biggest cities.

The country already has 107 million mobile phone users but internet services lag far behind, with barely 36,000 subscribers by either mobile or fixed lines.

Top Bangladeshi mobile phone operator Grameenphone said on Monday it will roll out a third-generation mobile network in parts of the capital Dhaka and port city Chittagong in October, reaching 7 other cities by the end of the year.

Grameenphone, which is majority owned by Norway's Telenor, won 10 megahertz of 3G spectrum at a much-awaited auction on Sunday, paying $210 million.

"This marks the beginning of a new chapter in the history of Grameenphone and Bangladesh. The country is getting ready for the data centric era, and our mission is to help the nation move ahead through providing internet for all," Vivek Sood, chief executive of Grameenphone, said in a statement.

The company, which leads the mobile market with a 44 percent share, pledged to do its best to make 3G widely available through "affordable" packages.

Around 47 million Bangladeshis live in poverty, according to a World Bank report released in June, although this number has fallen sharply over the last decade.

The Bank's definition of poverty was an income of less than $2 a day, or a calorie intake of less than 2100 calories.

Egyptian Orascom Telecom's Banglalink, Robi, a joint venture between Malaysia's Axiata Group and Japan's NTT DoCoMo, and Airtel, majority owned by India's Bharti Airtel, won bids for 5 megahertz of spectrum each at a price of $105 million.

State-owned mobile operator Teletalk last year launched a 3G service on a test basis.

(Reporting by Ruma Paul; Editing by Toby Chopra)

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