DHAKA - Ericsson, the world's biggest mobile network maker, called on Bangladesh on Wednesday to issue 3G licences so operators can launch mobile broadband services there.

Mobile broadband services, which require the licensing of the 2100 MHz spectrum band for third-generation (3G) services, would give many more people access to the Internet as Bangladesh has a high number of mobile phones and comparatively few fixed lines.

If the government releases appropriate spectrum for 3G, which is the proven global mainstream for the mobile broadband, then we are confident that it will contribute significantly to the country's GDP (gross domestic prodcut) growth, Arun Bansal, managing director of the Ericsson Bangladesh, told a news confrence.

The mobile phone sector contributed 6.2 percent of Bangladesh's GDP in 2007. Research firm Deloitte & Touche have estimated that mobile communication has raised GDP growth in Bangladesh by 0.12 percent for each 1 percent increase in penetration.

It is estimated that there are over 6 million mobile internet users and already today 15 percent of the mobile handsets used in Bangladesh market are 3G enabled, Bansal said.

Bangladesh's mobile sector has grown rapidly, with the number of users reaching around 46 million at the end of March from 200,000 in 2001, compared with only 1.37 million fixed-line phones.

Analysts have predicted that by 2011 the number of mobile subscribers could top 70 million, which is nearly half the country's population.

There are six cellphone carriers in Bangladesh, of which five are foreign operators. Grameenphone, controlled by Norway's Telenor (TEL.OL) leads the market with 21 million subscribers followed by Egyptian Orascom Telecom's (ORTE.CA) Banglalink.

Although nearly half of the country's population is still below the poverty line, the country has been one of the world's fastest growing cellular markets.

Telecom analysts have said that the 3G broadband services would enable people to get easy access to information on health, education, agriculture and job opportunities. (Reporting by Ruma Paul; editing by Karen Foster)